Cardiac Arrest Survivor Meets MTSU Students, Police Who Gave Lifesaving Care

Feb 13, 2024 at 08:57 pm by WGNS News

Retired MTSU professor Richard Detmer, right, and Gatlin Murr, left

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — It was a lifesaving reunion three weeks in the making.

Racquetball playing partners twice a week for 18 years at the Middle Tennessee State University Health, Wellness and Recreation Center, Richard Detmer and Raj Srivastava were in for quite a surprise as their final game wrapped up on Friday, Jan. 19.


Detmer, a retired MTSU Computer Science professor and department chair, collapsed.

“While he was falling down, he was telling me he was fine,” said Srivastava, a Jones College of Business marketing professor. “Something in his eyes told me I needed to call for help.” Detmer was experiencing cardiac arrest.                                                                                    

Srivastava got Jack Morris, an aerospace student who happened to be outside the court, to immediately summon aid. MTSU students and Campus Recreation staff members Julia Rutledge, Gatlin Murr, Andrew Scrugham and Jasmine Jackson sprang into action.

“I was the first person in the room and called 2424 (MTSU Police dispatch) and for the AED (Automated External Defibrillator). We needed more help,” said Murr, a junior computer science major from Maryville, Tennessee. “We realized, ‘This is it.’ We cut his shirt open. Julia applied the AED and it advised to shock.”

Campus Recreation Associate Director Ray Wiley credits the students’ quick calling to 911 and administering of CPR and the AED until Campus Police’s Angela Todd, a master police officer, and Patrol Lt. Walter Spain arrived as being critical to saving Detmer’s life before Murfreesboro Fire Rescue Department transported him to receive doctors’ care at Ascension Saint Thomas Rutherford Hospital.

Unconscious most of the following weekend, Detmer, 78, survived and has fully recovered. Doctors implanted a small defibrillator in his upper chest before he was released.

Three weeks later, Detmer, and his wife of 56 years, Carol Detmer, returned to the Rec Center to deliver cookies and thank some of those who helped save his life.

Plenty of hugs and thank-you’s were exchanged in the 45-minute gathering in a Rec Center second-floor classroom. All of the students told Detmer how good he looked and that it was great to see him again.

“I was very thankful,” said Detmer, who served as computer science chair from 1998-2010. “If you are eligible for CPR training, get it. It saves lives.”

Wiley said it marks the third time in 20 years CPR and AED equipment have saved someone’s life in the rec center. “Once again, American Red Cross CPR/AED training has paid off,” he said. “Our students responded beautifully to save a life.”

Detmer, a Murfreesboro, Tennessee, resident, said he has not been given any restrictions for physical activity and hopes to return to the racquetball court soon.

“Doctors say this could have happened any place any time and had nothing to do with racquetball,” Detmer said. “I just happened to be in the right place at the right time.”


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