tylertoday local E vEryonE i s d E s t i n E d t o d o o n E g r E at t h i n g . JIM YANKER by Faith Harper, Tyler Morning Telegraph and Julie Goodgame, City of Tyler photos by Sarah Miller, Tyler Morning Telegraph “Everyone is destined to do one great thing,” is a phrase that Jim Yanker uses frequently. Yanker is the financial manager for Tyler Water Utilities who uses this phrase with good reason. On August 23, 1996, when Yanker was an employee of the North American Mining Services, he heard a woman scream outside of his office on Old Bullard Road. Running outside, he found a man having a heart attack on the second floor walkway of the Sheraton Hotel. Immediately he and another man, Lawrence Martin – who was visiting the hotel – rushed to the aid of Eugene Kucharek. They called paramedics and performed CPR until help arrived. Thanks to their quick actions, Kucharek survived a heart attack. “God must really love me, because he sent not just one, but two Good Samaritans” Eugene wrote in a letter addressed to both men who saved him. “Tony Bennett left his heart in San Francisco, but I definitely left my heart in Tyler, Texas.” Yanker was awarded the Red Cross Certificate of Merit for his actions, but what he could not know was that in the future, history would repeat itself. This time, however, he would be the one in peril. Almost twenty years to the day, Jim sat at his office desk when he began to feel pain in his arm and chest. Then he began struggling to breathe. “I immediately felt that I couldn’t breathe, as if there was very heavy pressure on top of my chest. It felt like someone was stepping on me,” he said. 24 DECEMBER 2017 / JANUARY 2018 Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, with 1.5 million heart attacks and strokes occurring annually. When it comes to the human heart, every second counts. That is why doctors stress that anyone who suspects they might be having a heart attack should immediately call emergency services. Thankfully, Jim knew this all too well. He picked up his phone, calling out to his co-worker, Joan Schrader, “Joan, dial 911. I’m having a heart attack.” As Joan called for an ambulance, other teammates rushed to his aid. Samantha Tiedemann ran from the Tyler Water Utilities building toward City Hall, where an Automated External Defibrillator, or AED, is stored. One of several such devices spread throughout the city, it delivers an electric shock to the heart that can jump start it during a cardiac episode. “Much of our staff is trained to provide CPR and use the AED,” said Risk Manager Sara McCracken. “This is why it is so important for companies to train their employees on what to do during a heart attack.” As Samantha ran between buildings, she passed two firefighters. “Jim’s having a heart attack!” she cried out. The men immediately bolted to their truck, grabbed their paramedic gear and sped to Jim’s side.