HOUSTON -- Jonathan Ruppert doesn’t remember much about the 94-degree day last month when he went for his normal Museum District jog. He only remembers the afternoon lunch date he’d had with his twin brother and then waking up in a hospital several days later.
"Other than that everything else is a blur,” Ruppert said.
That “blur” was a life-saving scramble by a team of complete strangers and Houston firefighters and paramedics.
Ruppert, 23, collapsed during his run. Several people rushed to his aid. Jade Davis called 911. Robert Niter III and his girlfriend Rita Payan were driving by, late to a date for a museum tour, when they saw the commotion on a sidewalk.
Niter, a member of the United States Air Force who is required to re-certify in CPR each year, immediately began performing CPR on the lifeless young man.
"He didn't have a pulse, any kind of vital signs, and he was already gone,” Niter said.
Niter continued CPR until Houston firefighters and paramedics arrived who used a defibrillator to get Ruppert’s heart beating again.
After several days in the hospital, Ruppert was sent home with a clean bill of health but with a diagnosis of a previously undetected genetic heart problem. He now wears an internal defibrillation device that will deliver a life-saving jolt if he goes into cardiac arrest again.
Tuesday afternoon, roughly a month after Ruppert’s collapse and resuscitation, the Houston Fire Department held a reunion at Fire Station #16 to thank everyone involved in saving Ruppert’s life. But they also held the reunion to remind the public that anyone could be called into action to become a sudden hero and should know the four links in the “Chain of Survival” – early 911 access, early CPR, early defibrillation, and early Advanced Life Support. Each step in that process was key to Ruppert still standing and breathing today.
"I thought you were gone,” Payan said.
“He was gone,” Niter said.
“I was gone,” responded Ruppert.
"I feel more like he wasn't supposed to go that day,” said Niter who refused to call himself a hero and was glad he was late to his appointment that day. By being late he was right on time for Ruppert.
“He has a purpose in life. He wasn't destined to die that day. That's the way I feel,” Niter said.
"God has given Jonathan a second chance,” said his mom Loreley Ruppert, who thanked everyone involved in saving her son’s life. “He will be able to have a family. He will be able to have a normal life all because of all these heroes."
"Words can't thank them enough for what they did. It's amazing,” Ruppert said after greeting every firefighter and good samaritan involved in his rescue. “They're amazing people. And because of them I'm still here today."
And immediately after the reunion at Fire Station #16 paramedics were called to another cardiac arrest event. As they raced away Ruppert wished them and their patient well.
"I hope that whoever they go and save they do it as quickly as they did it for me," Ruppert said. "It's amazing what these guys do and I cn't thank them enough."