Holiday horror with a happy ending

Joan Baker died on Dec. 13, 2017, and thanks to fast-thinking islanders, she was brought back to life.

“These people are amazing on this island,” Baker said. “It was the most amazing experience. I was never afraid.”

Baker, 63, was grooving on the dance floor at the Island Market holiday party in the Discovery House at Rosario Resort when she became short of breath and her vision turned black and white. She asked her husband, Tim, to escort her to the restroom for a break from the festivities. As they moved through the party, she lost consciousness and collapsed.

Tim was able to brace her fall, but not fast enough to stop her ankle from breaking. Baker had experienced cardiac arrest.

“I’m among the fifth percentile that lives after something like this,” Baker said. “These people brought me back and kept me alive.”

Island Market Manager Jason Linnes immediately began to do chest compressions on Baker. After EMTs arrived, she was transported by helicopter to PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center in Bellingham.

Linnes is no stranger to reacting to medical emergencies. In January of 2017, he was awarded the Orcas Island Fire and Rescue’s Citizen of the Year award for performing the Heimlich Maneuver on a choking woman during the Orcas Chamber of Commerce banquet in October of 2016 also held in the Discovery House.

“He was ‘Jason on the spot’,” Baker said. “Apparently [the compressions] were just fine because nobody stopped him.”

Linnes’ reaction is likely the reason Baker is able to tell her story.

According to the American Heart Association, in 2016, 88 percent of people who experience cardiac arrest outside of a hospital setting died. In 2017, Orcas Fire and Rescue responded to four confirmed reports of cardiac arrest.

Baker spent eight days in PeaceHealth’s intensive care unit. During that time, she received gifts and phone call check-ups from the emergency medical technicians who helped her.

“What’s up with that? I am the one who should be giving gifts!” Baker said. “I really want to see them recognized. These people are amazing.”

Baker thanks everyone who helped her to survive: Shawn Simpson, Paul and Virginia Carrick, Brian Ehrmantraut, Micki Nichols, Jeff Larsen, Chad Kimple, Israel and Chelsea Guilford, Eli Bruce, Sonya and Tim Lippman, Karen Caley, Angelina Arreguin, Steve and Cindy Sapp, and Linnes.

Baker said they are a life-saving gift to Orcas Island.

“I’m just incredibly, incredibly thankful to all of these people,” she said.

Baker is now back at her Orcas Island home, recovering from her heart attack. She is in good spirits.

“I’m good. I’ll probably live forever,” Baker said. “I’m feeling pretty good, considering … I’ve got a lot to be chipper about.”