Horace and Barbara Pryor stroll down a hallway at The Methodist Hospitals in Merrillville, escaping the heat on another day that Horace is thankful to enjoy.
Up ahead, Chuck Edwards grabs a wheelchair and smiles.
"Hey, Horace, you want to try out the ol' Cadillac?" he says, his heavily inked forearms moving the chair back and forth. Horace smiles and shakes his head.
"Nope," he says. "Been feeling a lot better lately."
Horace takes small, measured steps. A tube for oxygen is fitted into his nose. A white mesh hat rests atop his head. Barbara Pryor spots a familiar person in the hallway, points ahead to Edwards and says, "There's our angel right there. He's the reason Horace is still here."
Edwards is one of their heroes, anyway.
It was Edwards, of Lake Station, who helped save Horace's life on May 9 at the Golden Corral restaurant in Merrillville. Edwards, a waiter, sprung into action after Horace dropped to a knee and collapsed face first near the buffet.
"I'd just gotten some clam chowder soup, and I remember dropping to a knee ... I don't remember anything after that," he says.
Some thought he was choking. Edwards knew otherwise. He felt for a pulse in his arm and couldn't find it. After getting help turning Horace over, he felt for a pulse again in his neck and still couldn't find it.
Somebody called 911 while another person started performing a maneuver to remove what they thought was food lodged in Horace's throat. Thinking quickly, Edwards stepped in and started administering CPR -- something he'd done twice before on people who ultimately died.
"I knew darn well he wasn't choking," Edwards says, sitting with a Golden Corral bib tied around his waist. "I'm very familiar with heart problems. I had a heart attack myself when I was 23 and my little sister ... she died when she was 11 ... had a heart condition that was genetic."
Didn't think he'd make it
It's a good thing Edwards knew enough to start CPR. Horace had a completely blocked artery. He was having a heart attack while his wife sat at their table unaware until Edwards came to get her.
Edwards coincidentally was the Pryors' waiter that day. He said paramedics had to hold him back a couple of times while they administered electric shocks, but he soon jumped back in and started doing CPR again.
Like the two others he'd tried to save this way -- a young boy in Las Vegas who'd been hit by a car and a former girlfriend's mother who was in a car accident -- Edwards was sure Horace wouldn't make it.
"I went to bed that night questioning myself," he says. "I kept thinking, 'I know I was breathing right, because I kept pulling clam chowder out of him.' But I thought he was done. That night, I thought God hated me for sure."
What he didn't know was that Horace was taken to The Methodist Hospitals in Merrillville, where cardiologist Dr. Vijay Dave was able to get him into the operating room quickly. After clearing the blockage and installing two stents, Horace Pryor's life was saved. He celebrated his 55th birthday on Friday.
The day before the heart attack, Horace felt a "stabbing" pain in his chest while at a local casino, but he shrugged it off and the pain subsided. He'd also suffered a stroke in 2007 and has diabetes.
"Many times men are more macho than women and they don't go to the hospital quickly if they have signs of a heart attack," Dave said. "The main thing to take away from this is that when you have suspicions of a heart attack or a burning sensation in your stomach, don't wait. Heart attacks do not necessarily mean you have chest pain. (Horace) was very lucky."
Statistics from the American Heart Association agree with that assessment. According to the AHA, if CPR is administered the chance of survival doubles. The organization says that if CPR is given within an hour of cardiac arrest onset, it could save approximately 138,000 lives a year.
He also didn't know what had happened when he woke up in a hospital bed with tubes hooked to his body. His first thought was, "Where's my wife?"
She was busy calling people. One of those calls went to the Golden Corral, where the message was relayed to Edwards. He then headed over to see the man whose life was the first he's been able to save using CPR.
Right place, wrong time?
Edwards first learned CPR during a medical course he took while living in Las Vegas and working as a tattoo artist. Now, he knows what it's like to have his life-saving efforts pay off. His CPR actions also were instrumental in keeping Horace's heart, liver and brain functioning properly.
"(Horace) is really doing well, and a lot of that is because Chuck did such a great job with the CPR," said nurse Barbara Josvai, who cared for Horace in the intensive care unit. "Sometimes when somebody goes into cardiac arrest, they can get heart and brain damage (from lack of oxygen)."
Edwards has also been on the receiving end of rescue efforts recently. An off-duty Hobart police officer saved both him and his two stepdaughters earlier this month from the rushing, cold water east of the Lake George dam in Hobart. Edwards had jumped in attempting to save the two girls, who were swept into the current after one of them slipped and fell.
"I always seem to be at the right place at the wrong time," he says of his multiple encounters with life-threatening situations. "I say the wrong time, because mentally it kills me. But I also think to myself, 'Who the heck wouldn't do it?' The restaurant was packed that night and I remember all these people just standing around. I can't imagine why all those people just stood there."
He looks at Horace for a second.
"I just assumed that you'd have done it for me."
The Pryors have also had another since Horace's heart attack --only this time it was Barbara. She was admitted to Methodist in Merrillville with chest pains, but her problem was caught before it got as serious as her husband's.
They live in Gary, but are not from this area originally. Horace works for the Lake County Sherriff as a court deputy in East Chicago. Barbara works for the Department of Correction in Westville after retiring from the U.S. Postal Service. Their children are grown and live in other states.
"All we've got here is each other and our dog," Horace says. "And, of course, Chuck."
Horace is asked to describe his feelings about Edwards, whose sense of humor is quick and whose generous heart seems to keep placing him in the right place at what he calls the "wrong" time.
"It's beyond words," Horace says. "I can't thank Chuck enough. He's like my brother now."
"I'd say he's like our son."
Comment on this story at www.post-trib.com. man's skill with cpr helps save a life
"I can't thank Chuck enough. He's like my brother now," says Horace Pryor of Gary (left) as his wife, Barbara Pryor, hugs Chuck Edwards goodbye at The Methodist Hospitals in Merrillville. Edwards performed CPR on Pryor when Pryor collapsed at the restaurant where Edwards was working.