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Signs of Life

Be Like Bill Organization Aims to Increase Survival Rates From Sudden Cardiac Arrest

Writer / Matt Keating
Photographer / Sarah Browning

When Jeff Utzinger goes for a run in his neighborhood or spends time with his family, he can’t help but think about the neighbor who saved his life.

“I was running in my neighborhood in June of 2017 in the Bay Hill subdivision, and I collapsed with sudden cardiac arrest [SCA],” Utzinger says. “My heart just failed to pump blood to the rest of my body.”

The only reason Utzinger survived is because an unknown neighbor named Bill Schlies stopped to help.

“Schlies called 911 and did CPR on me for four minutes, until a Carmel policer officer showed up with an automatic external defibrillator [AED],” Utzinger says. “He effectively used the device, which shocked my heart back in rhythm. I was still unconscious when they took me to the ER. I didn’t wake up until later that evening. The whole thing was a blur.”

Utzinger, who works as a recruiter, is now friends with Schlies.

“If it wasn’t for Bill Schlies, I wouldn’t even be here,” Utzinger says. “I don’t even remember anything after the night of the run or my week in the hospital, but just tried to comprehend that I was extremely lucky. I had about a 3% chance of surviving. It was all because Bill had the decency to stop and help another person. I think about that all the time. My family does too.”

Schlies, a franchisee for Jani-King, also just happened to be taking a different route that day, which was a blessing in disguise for Utzinger.

“Bill said he just went the wrong way that day and wound up seeing me,” Utzinger says. “He missed his turn. There were just so many lucky things that worked out for me that day. I couldn’t have been more thankful for how everything turned out.”

Utzinger says he and his family are grateful every day for everything Schlies did.

“We also decided to do something positive to help other people who might be in my situation,” Utzinger says. “Bill Schlies and I created a nonprofit called Be Like Bill, that has a few messages that we deliver. Specifically, our organization spreads awareness and education about sudden cardiac arrest. We also help tell people what to do in a cardiac emergency, and raise money to buy and donate AEDs to communities. We are a 501(c)(3) organization whose mission is to increase survival rates from sudden cardiac arrest.”

Utzinger, founder and president of Be Like Bill, says he and Schlies are currently working with Carmel city leaders to help fund a public-access defibrillation program that would make the life-saving and simple-to-use machines more accessible along the Monon Trail and in Carmel parks.

“It’s so important to have public awareness about SCA and AEDs, and we want to see these AEDs more readily available to more people,” Utzinger says. “I’m a living example as to why it’s so important.”

For more information, check out belikebill.org.

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