ST. PETERSBURG — When David Garrity's hands could no longer pump oxygen, it was a machine in a plastic box that reclaimed his best friend's life.
David Bryant's body had been motionless on June 23 when St. Petersburg Fire and Rescue got to him. Bryant, 58, was in cardiac arrest, according to Garrity and an EMS report of the incident.
Garrity and a neighbor bowed their heads over his body, he said.
But the men in prayer did not notice when paramedic Jeremy Wert lifted the automated external defibrillator from Bryant's chest.
At 2:03 p.m., oxygen stirred in Bryant's chest once again.
"He was clinically dead for over 14 minutes," said Garrity, 69, a disabled veteran who is a handyman. "They had to hit him four times with the defibrillator."
The two men sat quietly on a recent Friday morning at North Shore Pool at a ceremony recognizing St. Petersburg for its efforts to stock more than 500 defibrillators throughout the city and train residents to use the devices and give CPR.
An automated external defibrillator sends an electrical shock to the heart through the chest after gauging the heart's rhythms. Beeps or other electronic prompts can guide anyone through it.
St. Petersburg was among five cities in Florida recognized with the Heart Friendly Award this year. Cities receiving the award invested aggressively in the devices and trained 911 operators to walk anyone through CPR.
The American Heart Association also honored St. Petersburg Fire and Rescue, the Sunshine Senior Center in St. Petersburg, and 40 public parks and agencies throughout Pinellas County for investing in the devices. In Hillsborough, the school district and Sheriff's Office also received the commendation. Elsewhere in the Tampa Bay area, the Hernando County Health Department and the Citrus County Sheriff's Office also received the award.
Bryant, a veteran who served in the Marines, is still in shock over what happened that day, which he barely remembers and speaks little about. He made a full recovery.
Garrity, a Navy veteran who served in Vietnam, remembers that his friend had complained of chest pains. Later that afternoon, the subject turned to comedian George Carlin, who a day before had died after chest pains. In a tender moment, Garrity asked Bryant if he knew a certain Irish prayer, but this only amused his friend.
"He chuckled, but then he gave a couple of gasps, stiffened up and went limp," Garrity recalled.
Garrity knows that his giving CPR, learned decades ago in the military, played a significant role in Bryant's revival.
The chance of recovery for a victim of sudden cardiac arrest doubles or triples with prompt CPR, according to the heart association. Few people, in fact, ever recover from sudden cardiac arrest when CPR and defibrillation are not involved.
St. Petersburg Fire and Rescue Division Chief William D. Ward said the city began providing automated external defibrillators in 2000. Since then, it has received several grants to buy more. Today, there are defibrillators at parks, golf courses, public buildings and courthouses, and on every police car and fire truck.
The department takes pride in that 2,000 people were trained in CPR last year alone, Ward said. The department's goal is to help private business owners invest in the devices, which cost about $1,200 each.
"Were not going to be complacent with having this number of 500," Ward said. "I don't think that we'll ever have enough."
Garrity said his daughter, a paramedic, impressed upon him the importance of first aid.
"Lives are saved," Garrity said, quoting his daughter, "because somebody reacts immediately."