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LEWISBURG, Pa. — "As I looked at Mr. Barnett, there were no signs of life," remembered Public Safety Officer Steve Barilar. "He was completely unresponsive. I feared that his daughter's first day at Bucknell was going to be the day her father died."
John Barnett is the parent of two Bucknell students: Taylor, Class of 2015, and Nick, Class of 2012. On Aug. 18, 2011, he was helping Taylor move into her room in Vedder Hall when he suffered a massive heart attack. Two Bucknell University public safety officers, Julie Holtzapple and Barilar, responded to the calls for help. Holtzapple arrived first and found Barnett lifeless, lying across the rear back seat of a black GMC truck. "I could not detect a pulse or breath," Holtzapple recalled. "His skin was clammy and partially blue in color."
A crowd of crying students and parents had gathered. Holtzapple enlisted several of them to help her move Barnett from the rear seat of the truck to the ground. Officer Barilar arrived moments later. "I was hoping and praying that we would be able to keep him alive until the ambulance and paramedics got there," he said.
The officers shocked Barnett twice with an automated external defibrillator, but he did not respond.
"At times it felt like we were working on him forever and at other times it felt like it was just seconds," said Barilar. "Honestly, I don't believe that it was any longer than 5 minutes until medical help arrived."
The EMS crew that came on the scene included at least one familiar face: Bucknell student and EMT Tom Latosek, Class of 2014, who took over chest compressions for Holtzapple. As Barnett was transported to Evangelical Hospital in Lewisburg, Pa., he was not conscious — in fact, he was clinically dead — but he carried with him the officers' thoughts and prayers. "I was thinking about my father and how it would affect me to be in Taylor and Nick's position," said Holtzapple. "I sent my angels with John that day."
Barnett was later flown to nearby Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, Pa., where doctors were able to repair his heart. Holtzapple and Barilar were officially rewarded for their part in the joint life-saving effort with a plaque presented by Barnett at Evangelical Hospital in May. But both officers said the real reward came when Barnett walked into the Public Safety office a week after his heart attack to personally thank the two officers who helped save his life. "That truly was a great day for me," said Holtzapple.
Holtzapple has seen Barnett three times since the day he died and was brought back to life. Every time, she pulls him into a hug and fights back tears. "It is great to see him and to know he is still here for his family," she said. "I am thankful to be a part of that day and that experience. These emotions go far beyond the awards I could ever receive."
"I am just thrilled for Mr. Barnett and his family that he is alive," added Barilar. "He is a gentlemen and it has been a pleasure to meet his family. They are true representatives of the real Bucknell family, and seeing him alive is all the recognition I need."
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