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Citrus Heights man recognized for saving life of veteran who suffered heart attack

Citrus Heights resident Roy McAlister, center, with Mayor Steve Miller, left, and Jerry Castanon, right, whose life he is credited with saving.

Sentinel staff report–
The Citrus Heights City Council officially recognized a longtime resident on Thursday for his efforts to save the life of a veteran who suffered a major heart attack while volunteering at the Veterans Community Center earlier this year.

“I had no idea what was in store that day,” McAlister told the council. Recalling what happened on Feb. 10, 2018, he said the day before he had gotten a call to show up early the next morning to help out at the veterans center on Sylvan Road.

While volunteering that morning, he heard someone yell, “Call 911, we’ve got a man down!” Quickly running to help, McAlister said he found a man he had met earlier that morning, Jerry Castanon, on the ground “on his abdomen.”

“When I went to check his pulse, there was nothing there,” said McAlister, who has a medical background. “So I rolled him over and immediately started compressions.”

He continued performing CPR for “about 8 minutes” until paramedics arrived, all the while “praying to the Lord quietly, saying ‘Help me, help me,'” he said. But even after first responders applied several electric shocks from a defibrillator, no pulse was registering.

As the ambulance took off for the hospital, McAlister handed his cell phone number to a team manager named Corey. “I says Corey, I’ve got a connection with this guy. He doesn’t know me from Adam, but I know that God intended me to be here for him that day,” he told the council.

“And so I waited, and I waited, and I waited.”

About four hours later, he finally decided to text Corey for an update and was relieved to hear some good news: Castanon had just come out of surgery and had two stints put in.

“The doctor said whoever did compressions on him saved this man’s life,” he recalled being told.

Crediting God with orchestrating the events of that morning in February, McAlister said he later learned that Castanon’s mother in Texas — described as “a pray-er who get’s things done” — was on her knees praying during the time of the incident. “Heavenly Father had this all planned out,” he said.

In recognition of his life-saving efforts, McAlister was given a framed certificate from the city council along with receiving the “mayor’s pin” from Mayor Steve Miller. Castanon and his family were also present as McAlister received recognition on Thursday.

“Something like this, when it occurs to you, you can understand life and see life is so precious,” said Castanon. “I’ve always felt that way, but after this incident, it’s grown even larger than that. It’s so much more important to me when you wake up — it’s a lot more beautiful than the way I used to think of it. It’s great just to be here, and be here among people, and not looking down from the ‘balcony’ and seeing everything.”

Although living miles apart, Castanon in Dixon and McAlister in Citrus Heights, the two said a bond has developed between them after the events of February 10.

“Buddy for life,” said Castanon of the man who saved his life.

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