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Offering CPR training to non‑custody staff

A correctional captain sits in a CPR training class.
Capt. Joe Cocke suffered a cardiac arrest a year ago. He said he's happy to see so many coworkers taking CPR training.

CPR training offered after 2 heart attacks hit one division

After two CDCR employees were stricken with heart attacks, one CDCR division decided to offer tools to help: CPR training.

“We pitched the idea to Director Deborah Hysen,” said Capt. Bill Barella, with Facility Planning, Construction and Management (FPCM). “She said to do it and to teach it to as many people as we can.”

While custody staff are required to receive CPR and first-aid training, there is no such requirement for other employees.

“We are offering this training based on CDCR employee Deric Johnson,” said the Barella. “He’s non-custody and knew CPR and saved two individuals.”

Tennis game ends in hospital visit

Capt. Joe Cocke, with Design Standards and Service in FPCM, was doing what he enjoyed on a warm summer day a year ago. He and coworker Deric Johnson were playing tennis.

“I’ve been playing tennis twice a week for years,” said Cocke. “We were about seven games in and were taking a water break. Then I collapsed.”

At first, Johnson didn’t know what was happening.

“Deric thought I was messing with him because I can be kind of a kidder,” said Cocke. “Then he rolled me over and saw I was blue and not breathing.”

Johnson called for help and started CPR.

Nearby, two sisters were taking wedding photos with their family. Luckily, the sisters, and their mother, happened to be nurses.

“They’d only been there about five minutes because I saw them when they came into the park,” said Cocke. “The family came down and helped Deric with CPR. They said they worked on me for seven minutes with no pulse.”

An ambulance then arrived, taking over life-saving measures.

Quick CPR saved his life

Cocke credits Johnson with saving his life in those first crucial moments.

“Deric is a retired Air Force chief and had CPR in his military career,” he said. “If I hadn’t had] proper CPR, I wouldn’t have had the blood flowing through me and I would’ve have suffered brain damage.”

Cocke said his arteries were clear and the doctors believe it was caused by an electrolyte imbalance so a pacemaker/defibrillator was implanted.

“So far, I’ve never had to use it,” he said.

Barella isn’t discussing the second cardiac arrest incident because the employee is still recovering.

“It was recent,” he said.

Non-custody staff volunteer for CPR training

“We have 350 employees in our building,” said Barella. “After we announced training, we had over 150 responses. This week alone, we are training 90 people.”

Realizing they needed help, they reached out to others in CDCR.

“Sgt. Victor Rogers got the ball rolling on this,” said Barella. “He got the instructors together. We also pulled instructors from other divisions and offices.”

Cocke said he shares his story with each class as they begin their training.

“It makes me really happy to see people doing the training,” he said. “As I told them, they are taking the first step to being somebody’s angel. Maybe they can be somebody’s angel like I know I had mine help me a year ago.”

The students are learning basic first aid and automatic external defibrillator as well as adult and infant CPR.

“FPCM employees are offered free CPR certified training and we’re offering re-certification to peace officers,” Barella said.

Medical emergencies can happen any time

Johnson said while he’s had the proper training and refresher courses, he’s never experienced incidents such as the recent two requiring his skills.

“I’m 54 years old and I’ve never seen anything like that. Now I’ve seen it twice in the same year,” he said.

There wasn’t any warning and he needed to quickly react.

“I think it’s pretty darned important to be trained,” he said. “I had a bunch of training because I was in the military. When you’re in a situation like that, it’s imperative you know what steps you need to take.”

Asked who he thinks should take CPR and first aid classes, he’s also quick with his response.

“I think it’s a good thing for anybody to have,” he said.

By Don Chaddock, Inside CDCR editor
Photos by Eric Owens, CDCR staff photographer

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