Wendell Thorne survived a massive heart attack thanks to a CPR-trained bystander, and he is now giving back
Maybe it was something he ate. He tried telling himself that anyway. The pain had to be gastrointestinal. He looked in the mirror, where the pictures of his children are tucked in the frame, and deep down he knew he was lying to himself.
Wendell Thorne, 61, was having a massive heart attack.
It happened in December, at the Ellenton barber shop he owns called His Place Barber and Grooming. It’s for men. He was there all alone, sitting in his black chair, the model airplanes, 900-pound marlin his wife caught and framed photo of Ted Williams looking down on him as the pain worsened.
“I was positive it was my last day on earth,? he said. “I was sure I was going to die. I had a very clear image that today was the day.
“I wasn’t scared. I wasn’t sad. I was annoyed. Really? Today? I knew I did not want to die in my barbershop.?
He made his way up the street, to Ellenton Urgent Care. The physician looked at the EKG and said “Oh, Jesus,? according to Thorne. There was 100 percent blockage. After a call to 911 the paramedics arrived promptly. As they wheeled Thorne out to the ambulance, Deliana Marte — a nursing student at Manatee Technical College — ran after him with his jacket and shirt.
She performed CPR, cracking six of his ribs, his sternum and vertebrae, Thorne said.
“She was really laying into it,? Thorne said.
She also saved his life. “Everyone agrees,? Thorne said.
A father of four, he has lived an interesting life. He was a lawyer, has written books and over 150 songs. He has had the barber shop for nine years. Had he died in it, he figures he would soon be forgotten.
“Life and death, one moment you’re here, one moment you’re gone,? he said. “The sound your life makes is nothing, whoosh, and it’s over. How many trillions of people have died in this world? In 10 minutes no one even thinks about it.?
There were signs that maybe this could happen. Thorne was 12 when his father — a ship builder in New England — had a heart attack at 47. The bad food, lack of exercise and nine cigars a day he was smoking didn’t help, either.
“First breath in the morning, last breath at night,? he said.
He used to hold open houses in his barber shop, which was formerly the old Ellenton State Bank, operational from 1914-1936. There would be cigars, beer tasting and music. They would sit on the leather furniture in the “man cave,? which used to be the bank vault.
Those days are over. He no longer smokes, he eats better and takes frequent walks, sometimes up to Ellenton Urgent Care, where he says hello to Marte and gives her a hug for performing CPR on him.
In fact, on Thursday night at 6 p.m., he will host a free CPR class in his shop conducted by Manatee County EMS personnel.
Healthy food will be served.