UTA employees honored for saving life of heart attack victim

Much of Sept. 7 is a blur to Joe Gamble.

He does not remember arriving at The University of Texas at Arlington campus to hear UTA alumnus Lou Diamond Phillips speak.

He cannot recall losing consciousness or the look of fear on his wife’s face.

He has no memory of the people who quickly stepped in, carrying him from his auditorium seat, placing him in an aisle and performing CPR until paramedics arrived.

Gamble had heard stories of the measures taken the night he suffered a heart attack, but he had a difficult time grasping it all until Oct. 30, when the 72-year old grandfather met two of the perfect strangers who saved his life.

“I can’t thank you enough,” said Mansfield resident Gamble, as he shook their hands at a ceremony on the UTA campus honoring the successful lifesaving efforts. 

UTA Police Officer Garry Douthitt, an army veteran who will graduate with his master’s in criminal justice in December, received a lifesaving award from the UTA Police Department. James Hollis, UTA’s director of community partnerships, received a citizen certificate of merit.

Douthitt and a nurse in the audience performed chest compressions on Gamble. Another nurse administered a shock to his heart using a defibrillator, which was accessible nearby in Texas Hall. Hollis kept Gamble’s head secure and airway open during the process.

In recognizing the efforts of his employees, UTA President Vistasp Karbhari said, “It is tremendous when people come together and do the right thing. I’m proud of our police force and staff at UTA who jumped into action not only for a specific task, but every day.”

Lou Diamond Phillips was appearing at UTA as part of the 10thanniversary season of the university’s Maverick Speakers Series. The actor stars in “Longmire,” one of Gamble’s favorite television shows.

Phillips was aware of the medical emergency that occurred before he took the stage. He sent a personal note to all of those involved. “Mr. Gamble, I am extremely happy to hear that you are on the mend and truly send my best wishes for a full and speedy recovery,” Phillips wrote.

To those who saved Gamble’s life, Phillips added, “Your cool heads, impeccable training and quick response certainly made all the difference that night.”

“Your commitment to duty, community and compassion are beautiful examples of exemplary citizenship and selflessness to be found in Arlington and at UTA. You are an inspiration to all of us and remind us that everyday heroes exist.”

Gamble and his wife say doctors told them he would not have survived without CPR and the use of a defibrillator.

“I was in the right place,” Gamble said with a smile. “I’m very lucky.”