Staying Healthy: Pickup basketball players jump in to save teammate's life

Fire district: 'The need will always exist for citizen heroes'

The San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District Board of Directors publicly recognized the four citizen rescuers of Harold Ng (center) at a meeting Feb. 28. (Photo courtesy of SRVFPD)

When Harold Ng's heart stopped beating on a San Ramon basketball court, that could have been the end for the 67-year-old engineer.

But thanks to a speedy team effort by fellow players that morning in late January, he is still alive and well, and will be able to return to the court in a year's time.

"There were a lot of heroes," said Ng, who lives in Concord.

At a board meeting on Feb. 28, the San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District recognized four of the rescuers who intervened in Ng's sudden cardiac arrest, a medical emergency with a survival rate of only 10%.

"No matter how quickly your emergency first responders arrive, the need will always exist for citizen heroes," said John Duggan, a battalion chief for the fire district, in an interview.

Ng had been playing basketball every Saturday morning in San Ramon for about 20 years, since the pickup games first began. Players came and went over time, and court needs had tripled -- when they first started playing at the end of the 1990s, the crew played at the city's Central Park, but those courts soon became too small (and were eventually torn down to make way for City Hall), so the players had migrated to the more expansive court space at nearby Iron Horse Middle School.

Generally their group had anywhere between 25 and 35 people playing standard five-on-five, Ng said, between 8:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.

As casual games go, variables fluctuated from week to week, but that Jan. 27 morning, a series of happy coincidences converged in his favor, Ng said.

"Everything seemed aligned for people to save me," he said.

This wasn't the first time Ng had collapsed on the court. Five months earlier, he was taken to the hospital after passing out, though in that instance he came to on his own. Medical professionals checked his circulation and had him wear a monitor for about seven days, but couldn't find any problems. So on Jan. 27, Ng assumed he was back to his normal healthy state.

"That day I felt fine," Ng said.

By 11:30 a.m, the crew had trickled down to about 15 players, all on one court, when suddenly, Ng collapsed. At first, some of his teammates thought the collapse was in jest, he said.

"They thought I was pulling their leg," Ng laughed.

"He was breathing but his eyes were closed," said Rudy Torres, an Oakland resident who has been playing with the Saturday crew in San Ramon for about a year. "Then immediately he stopped breathing."

But after realizing that the emergency was real, the players sprang into action. Patrick Murphy called 9-1-1. Torres ran into the nearby middle school and grabbed one of the AEDs (automated external defibrillators) in the gym. Alex Harris performed CPR on Ng, and Mike Richard applied the AED.

Within three minutes, San Ramon Valley Fire personnel arrived on-site. They administered an electric shock to Ng using the AED that had already been set up and brought him to the San Ramon Regional Medical Center down Alcosta Boulevard.

He woke up after being shocked, but only remembers the ambulance ride, talking to technicians in the vehicle. Doctors ended up finding two artery blockages, which they opened by inserting tubes called stents, and in three days, Ng was home.

He still shoots hoops on Saturdays, where he is able to see his rescuers, though he won't be able to play in basketball games for another year he's on blood thinner right now to prevent blood clots around the stents and a minor bump or cut could lead to internal bleeding.

The experience has made him a huge advocate for AEDs in all locations.

He's working on getting them installed throughout his office and wants to get one for his car, so that he could perhaps "pay it forward" and save someone else, should the need arise.

Duggan echoed Ng's sentiments regarding the value of AEDs, adding that he believes people should be taught how to use them in CPR training, especially as speed is often of the essence in situations where defibrillators are needed.

"That dialogue should also include AED training," he said.

Ng also points to the fortuitous confluence of circumstances that day.

If the gym at Iron Horse Middle School had been locked, as it sometimes is on Saturday mornings, Torres couldn't have grabbed the AED. And the courts' proximity to Fire Station 34 and San Ramon Regional Medical Center expedited his rush to recovery.

But mostly, he said he's thankful -- thankful for the city's investment in emergency resources, thankful for the school's AEDs, and thankful to his rescuers, ball players and first responders alike.

"I'm very thankful to all the right people in the right places, who had the right equipment," Ng said.

What is democracy worth to you?
Support local journalism.


6 people like this
Posted by Spudly
a resident of Laguna Oaks
on Apr 9, 2018 at 10:20 am


Like this comment
Posted by Gaffney
a resident of Canyon Oaks
on Apr 9, 2018 at 10:52 pm

You could tick the Remember Me box so your login details are recalled Web Link Android and greater required to stable installment and run smooth with no issues.

Like this comment
Posted by gta san andreas data apk
a resident of California Somerset
on Jun 6, 2018 at 11:51 pm

Thanks for sharing this valuable information to our vision. Nice article
i was really impressed by seeing this article, it was very interesting and it is very useful for me.Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by filmywap apk download
a resident of Canyon Oaks
on Jun 27, 2018 at 11:43 pm

Yes, this process is useful when you don’t have a smartphone, and also we can use this app for the PC and her this article is very helpful right, and you can share this with your friends k right, and the emulators can be download on my site.
Her this blue stacks can be installed in your windows XP,/7/8/8.1/10 also the blue stacks is supported, and one more thing is system should be a speed of ram 1 GB to efficient, and it can easily download and install the file quickly. Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by Kevin Collier
a resident of California Reflections
on Jun 30, 2018 at 6:30 am

Well after going through the news one thing is sure that basketball not only is a game enjoyed by all age groups but also develops camaraderie between players. Alex Harris did a great job in rushing in to help Harrold Ng. The CPR given by him to Ng is a very commendable job. Generally, it is normal for people playing basketball to fill exhausted. But, usually, older generations must be a bit careful while playing the game. As this is a very highly competitive game, I suggest players like Harold Ng should slowly build up on their game rather than rushing in. Finally, great presence of mind by Alex.
Web Link

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox.

Remaking Bishop Ranch Business Park into a mixed-use community
By Tim Hunt | 1 comment | 1,138 views

Premarital, Women Over 50 Do Get Married
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 1,016 views

How Your Email Impacts College Admission Results!
By Elizabeth LaScala | 0 comments | 377 views


Nominations due by Sept. 16

Pleasanton Weekly and are once again putting out a call for nominations and sponsorships for the annual Tri-Valley Heroes awards - our salute to the community members dedicated to bettering the Tri-Valley and the lives of its residents.

Nomination form