RICHMOND, Va - Like many families on Mother's Day this year, John Cummings was at brunch with his wife and two of his grown children. Without the quick action of an off-duty VCU doctor, Cumming said that day could have been his last.
Cummings had been on an early morning bike ride with one of his daughters. He said returning from that trip was the last thing he remembers.
Alice and Robin Cummings landed brunch reservations at Grandstaff and Stein, a Shockoe Bottom speakeasy, to celebrate the day with their mother Jayne.
"We don't always get to get together every Mother's Day, so we thought it would be a nice thing to do," Robin said. "Go out, have a nice brunch, and... it didn't quite turn into that at the end of the day."
Shortly after cocktails were ordered, John suffered a major cardiac arrest, fell face down on the table, and then slumped into Jayne's lap.
"It was quite an experience, as you might imagine. You know basically, he died in my arms," Jayne said.
"The only thing I do remember is going down the gurney in the hospital going, 'Is this real?' And [the hospital staff] said, 'Yes it is. Shut up!'" John said with a smile while reflecting on that day.
Right after John collapsed, Alice Cummings immediately called 911, and Robin's boyfriend yelled out for someone to help.
An off-duty VCU doctor happened to be at Grandstaff and Stein with his own family and rushed in to give John CPR until the ambulance arrived.
"It's all kind of a blur. All I remember seeing of him is him running right by me," said Robin.
Cummings credits the doctor's swift actions with saving his life and allowing him to live a normal life months after the scare.
"I'm here because of him, or at least my brain is. Because after three minutes that you don't have any oxygen you can lose brain function," he said.
In the three months since Mother's Day, the Cummings family had not met with the doctor who helped save John's life, until Tuesday. Dr. Alan Dow walked into Grindstaff and Stein and was greeted by Jayne with a misty-eyed hug.
"It's good to meet you! Let me give you a hug too," Dr. Dow said to John.
"I understood you wondered what happened to me," Cummings said after the afore mentioned embrace. "I'm glad to report I'm not dead yet!"
Dr. Dow, who has worked at VCU Medical Center for 17 years, said this Mother's Day was the most striking of example of using his medical training while off the clock.
"We try to help people a lot in the hospital, and you feel like you make a difference but you're never sure," he said. "This is just tremendous to be here and look at John and be in the same place and he's wearing the same kind of shirt."
Tuesday's reunion was about more than gratitude and hugs. Quick action and CPR helped save John's life. Now, his entire family has vowed to take CPR training course, and John is urging others to learn the life-saving technique.
"That's why I'm here. If I can help encourage others to learn [CPR], maybe they can save someone else's life like mine was," Cummings said.
Health professionals said you do not have to be certified to administer life-saving CPR in an emergency situation.
"You don't have to be certified to know CPR. VCU Health the Pauley Heart Center have been committed to meet members of the community in the community to teach them the quick, important components they need to know about CPR," said Michelle Gossip with VCU Health.
Gossip said community groups and businesses can contact the Pauley Heart Center at VCU for more information on classes that teach hands-free CPR.