Twice thankful: JoCo hero saved Kansas City CEO’s life. Next she survived a brain bleed

Sarrisa Curry is happy for two reasons, both linked to life and death.

First, she is happy to finally know what became of the man who, on Oct. 6, went into cardiac arrest off Mission Road — until she and a stranger, known then only as a blond woman with a dog, leaped into action, used CPR to bring him back to life and watched as he was sped away to a hospital.

A story in The Star on Monday told of how that man, 52-year-old Jon Cook — a husband, the father of three daughters and the global CEO of the marketing firm VMLY&R — had been searching for the two anonymous guardian angels to thank them. Cook, as of Monday, didn’t know their names. Curry didn’t know his, either. Neither still knows the identity of the other CPR Samaritan, although, as of Tuesday, she has been tentatively identified as a 31-year-old nurse practitioner from Children’s Mercy Hospital.

The second reason for Curry’s happiness: She, too, has a pulse.

On St. Patrick’s Day, five months after her heroic intervention, Curry, at 45, was suddenly struck at work with a crushing headache that she said doctors at Menorah Medical Center thought at first might be a migraine. (Although Curry never suffered migraines.) Instead, a CT scan revealed a brain bleed where her brain meets her spinal cord.

By luck or something greater — Curry possesses much faith in something greater — she was discharged from the intensive care unit after a few days and says she feels fine. On Monday, Curry was recuperating at home, glad to finally know Cook’s name and that he was doing well.

“It’s a rush to be part of something like that,” Curry said. “You know, I don’t think it was his time to go at all, whether or not I had followed what God was telling me — to pull over and stop. There were four other people within the next minutes that were there that were going to save his life.”

Maybe. But a few minutes is a long time for a stopped heart. The American Heart Association notes that only 10% of people survive cardiac arrests outside a hospital.

The way Cook recounted the tale, he had just left his Fairway home for an evening run when he turned from Shawnee Mission Parkway south onto Mission Road. His head suddenly felt hot. He collapsed just as a woman with a dog was walking toward him. He came to believe that the “blonde with a dog,” as he came to think of her, flagged people down and didn’t realize she was one of the people who had given him CPR. They were followed by a half dozen more people, including three cardiac physicians from the University of Kansas Health System who helped bring back his pulse.

Jon Cook suffered cardiac arrest when he was out jogging near his Fairway home.
Jon Cook suffered cardiac arrest when he was out jogging near his Fairway home.

Sarrisa Curry’s story offers a more detailed picture. She and her husband, David, said they had just left a volleyball game at Bishop Miege High School. The Currys live in Overland Park and their daughter, Sophia Haley, 15, played for the opposing team, Blue Valley High School.

Blue Valley lost a few matches and, as a pick-me-up, the family decided to go to get ice cream at Fairway Creamery on Mission Road. Sophia said no, at first. Had they listened, the family would have gone home a different way and not been there when Cook passed out.

“We’re walking out the door,” Sarrisa Curry said, “she’s like, ‘Well, I guess I’ll have some ice cream.’” Mom and daughter got into their Kia Sedona. David Curry followed behind them on his Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

They turned south onto Mission Road, came around the first bend and saw a woman with a dog with a man who had collapsed to one knee.

“It was weird scene,” Curry said. “He wasn’t on the ground. He looked like he had fallen or was tying his shoe, even. She was kind of bent down like talking to him.

“So I had like two seconds to decide if I was going to stop and see if everything was OK.”

She passed the two of them. Then saw an empty driveway. She turned in.

“What are you doing?” she recalled her daughter asking. She told her she wanted to check.

Cook, by then, was on the ground. Everything was not OK. Cook was gasping for air. His eyes were wide open, staring at the sky. Curry tried to get him to talk. Nothing. The woman with the dog called 911. Cook stopped breathing.

A certified personal trainer, Curry is president and head coach of the nonprofit Parkinson’s Exercise and Wellness Center in Overland Park. Trained and retrained in CPR a number of times, she had been re-certified that June. This was the first time she had ever had to put it into practice.

“I checked for a pulse and couldn’t feel a pulse,” Curry said. She told the woman with the dog, “I’m starting CPR,” which the woman relayed to the 911 operator.

For the next couple minutes, Curry performed CPR on her own: 15 chest compressions, followed by two breaths; 15 more compressions, followed by two breaths.

The woman with the dog then joined in and began compressions while Curry gave breaths. By that time others had begun to gather. KU cardiologist Prakash Acharya, still in his scrubs, heading to a dinner with his brother-in-law, checked Cook’s femoral artery for a pulse. Another cardiologist from KU checked his neck.

Curry’s daughter and husband watched. Cook’s pulse returned and then faded again.

“After, I think, it was her first round (of chest compressions), I gave a breath,” Curry said. “The second breath, his body moved differently. He kind of took the breath. At which point his eyes opened, kind of started looking around, started coming around. We were all kind of like hands-off. We’re watching him to see if he’s going to stay awake or drift into unconsciousness.

“He stayed awake and started trying to sit up. … He was already awake by the time the ambulance came.”

Not long after, Jeff Filby, who lives across the street, snapped a cellphone picture, which, through relatives and friends, found its way to the Currys. The photo shows the woman with the dog, KU physician Acharya in his scrubs, daughter Sophia in her volleyball uniform and others gathered around. Police, ambulance and other vehicles clog Mission Road, their lights flashing.

Curry said she was helping hold Cook’s head up at that point. Curry’s arm is visible. Cook is not.

Jon Cook, 52, of Fairway collapsed of cardiac arrest on Mission Road just south of Reinhardt Drive on Oct. 6. Sarrisa Curry (out of view) was one of two women who revived him with CPR as emergency vehicles arrived.
Jon Cook, 52, of Fairway collapsed of cardiac arrest on Mission Road just south of Reinhardt Drive on Oct. 6. Sarrisa Curry (out of view) was one of two women who revived him with CPR as emergency vehicles arrived.

“I’m just so happy to know who she is and that she’s someone I can now connect with!” Cook said Monday, informed that one of the people who saved his life had come forward.

After his near-death experience, Cook and his wife, Lisa, had gone door-to-door to see if anyone knew who had helped him. But he had no luck. He looked on the app Nextdoor to see if anyone had posted any information. But none had. The Currys, meanwhile, had also searched social media to gain any information about the man they’d come across.

Curry and the woman with the dog approached each other, she said, after Curry returned to life. He walked himself to the ambulance.

“You know, I got up. I gave her a big, huge hug,” Curry said. “We kind of just held each other for a minute.”

They didn’t exchange names. The Currys naturally considered all that happened, or could have. The Currys share five children from their previous marriages.

“There’s lots of emotions afterwards,” Curry said. “There was just like, you know, what was he going to leave behind if we weren’t there? … There was no reason for us to be in that neighborhood at that point of time.”

She believes God had a role.

‘”You know,” Curry said, “there were a lot of things that lined up that day that I don’t think can be put to circumstances or to anything other than it was not Jon’s day to die.”

Once the ambulance left, everyone went their separate ways.

“Everyone just kind of left and we went and got ice cream,” Curry said. “My hands were pretty shaky trying to eat it.”