LOUISVILLE, Ky. — After collapsing two separate times due to cardiac arrest, a Louisville man is now an advocate for CPR training, a tool he said saved his life.

What You Need To Know

  • Jeff Backus survived two heart attacks thanks to bystanders who performed CPR

  • Now he's leading the charge for CPR awareness and training

  • The Red Couch Tour’s goal increase awareness of cardiovascular disease and stroke

  • The American Heart Association and UofL Health provided CPR demonstrations at the Kentucky State Fair

As part of the American Heart Association’s Red Couch Tour, UofL Health and AHA were at the Kentucky State Fair providing visitors with information on heart disease and CPR demonstrations. 

The Red Couch Tour’s goal is to increase awareness of cardiovascular disease and stroke by sharing information from the experts and those with a personal experience, like heart attack survivor Jeff Backus. 

Backus stands behind volunteers and CPR demonstration participants at the Kentucky State Fair. (Spectrum News 1/Erin Wilson)

Backus is one individual spotlighted in the Red Couch Tour. In 2014, Backus had one goal on his mind: training to run his first 5K.

“I had gone out on a Sunday afternoon and was running up Dog Hill in Cherokee Park when I had a cardiac arrest. I don't remember any of it, I don't remember anything else but leaving my house,” Backus said. “But there was an ER nurse who was training for the Ironman and she was running up on me, she gave me CPR for twenty minutes until the emt’s could get there.”

After a double bypass surgery, Backus was back on his feet. Running for five years with no problems. Completing the 5K he was training for that fall, then running the Derby City half marathon and then completing the Derby City full marathon.

That was until May 2019, when Backus collapsed again in the exact same park. This time, a group of teenage boys performed CPR.

“I don't remember anything, in fact I don't remember anything for two weeks before that. I woke up about a week later in the hospital. I had been on the ventilator and had some kidney failure and some other things but survived it,” Backus said.

Although his running days are now over, Backus continues to visit Cherokee Park.

“Someone told me one time after the second one I should stay out of Cherokee Park and I said, 'No that’s where I need to be because that's where I was saved and someone will be there to save me,'” Backus said.

He's passionately advocating for CPR, a tool that he said saved his life not once but twice.

“When I survived the first one I was like OK, maybe there's a reason it happened, what can I do? It’s become a thing I try to do because they say it's 1 in 10 for a person to survive an out of hospital cardiac arrest, I have not met anybody that's survived two but me,” Backus said.

Backus is still good friends with the ER nurse who performed CPR during his first collapse. He hasn't met the teenage boys who he said saved his life the second time, but hopes to meet them in the future to thank them.

UofL Health also had a giant inflatable heart at their booth at the state fair, where visitors could learn more about the muscle's inner workings.