Spencer Buddington and his friends Tanner Humbert, Clayton Ball and Bryce Vandergriff were shopping for college room decor in January when a general store owner approached them, pleading for help. The store owner’s friend, James Ward, who was at the store helping out, had suffered a heart attack and was unconscious.
“All of us know CPR,” Buddington says. “Three of us are Eagle Scouts and the other is a lifeguard.”
The 19-year-old University of Virginia freshman and Eagle Scout from Troop 222 in Abington, Va., led the way into the store, got on the ground and began administering chest compressions.
“Instincts kicked in; I had to do what I could to save this person’s life,” Buddington says. “I knew if I needed to take a break, my friends could sub in.”
Humbert helped him keep pace with the chest compressions and rescue breaths. During the compressions, one of the man’s ribs cracked. His Scout training prepared him for something like that. Instead of panicking at the injury he had caused, he kept administering CPR, and Ward regained consciousness, but then lost it again. Buddington continued the life-saving technique.
“There wasn’t a lot of thinking,” he says. “It was reactionary, doing whatever I could do in my power. I’m so glad I knew what I was doing.”
Ward woke up and the boys stayed with him as EMTs arrived. After more than week in the hospital, Ward recovered and called to thank Buddington for his quick thinking and actions. (A safety note: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s recommended that no rescue breaths be performed on adult cardiac arrest victims due to the risk of potential disease transmission. Continuous compression-only CPR can be administered until emergency personnel arrive.)
A lesson from Scouting
Knowing signals for a heart attack and the procedures for cardiopulmonary resuscitation is a First Class rank requirement.
“I never expected to have to use it,” Buddington says. “I was fully prepared to do so, but it never occurred to me that I’d have to use it.”
Since the rescue, he has visited Troop 222 and shared the story from that day.
“In the short run, you’re checking a box,” he says. “In the long run, it can be the difference between life and death.”