Dan Caplis haters: Sorry to break it to you, but he just saved somebody's life

Want proof that KHOW afternoon-drive talk-show host Dan Caplis is a divisive fellow? In the midst of a column about how Caplis' quick thinking, and his way with an automated external defibrillator (AED), saved a life on Thanksgiving, the Denver Post's Susan Greene confessed, "I cringe at much of the pro-war, pro-gun, anti-choice, anti-Obama bluster he serves up on the radio each weekday."

When asked about this aside, Caplis laughs. "I was glad Susan included that," he says. "One of the big points here is that some things are more important than all these divisions. So I thought it was a good, honest point for her to make — that even though she obviously disagrees with me politically, we should all be able to agree that folks should have these machines."

Caplis, who's also an attorney, owned an AED because of his relationship with Bob Bowman, whose seventeen-year-old son died of a cardiac arrest on a Montana football field back in 2007 for want of such a device.

Bowman wanted to ensure that school districts purchased AEDs to prevent tragedies like this one from happening in the future, hiring Caplis to represent him in a lawsuit intended to accomplish that goal. He also urged the lawyer to have an AED on hand at Little League games he coached, and Caplis took his advice, investing $1,700 in the contraption.

Cut to Thursday in Cherry Hills Village. "We were playing this flag-football game on Thanksgiving," Caplis recounts. "It was a pretty big game: a bunch of dads, a bunch of kids. And I just happened to be watching Dr. Thompson" — that's Dr. Ches Thompson, an ob/gyn — "who I didn't really know at the time. He was on offense, I was on defense, and as he walked back to the huddle, I saw him start to go down. And from the way he went down — not making any effort to protect himself, put his arms out, brace himself — I assumed it was a cardiac event. And before he even settled on the ground, I was running to the truck to get the defibrillator."

Lucky thing another doctor was on the scene: Dr. Scott Bainbridge, a spine specialist.

"By the time I got back, Dr. Bainbridge was taking great care of Dr. Thompson. He'd already rolled him over, exposed his chest and was doing CPR and monitoring his pulse. But either just before I got back or as I got back, he'd lost his pulse and Dr. Thompson stopped breathing."

Fortunately, Caplis continues, "the machine is so simple. You just open it up, prepare it for use, and it actually walks you through what to do. There's a voice that comes on and takes you through everything step by step. So we got it fired up and Dr. Bainbridge took the pads, put them on his chest, and at a certain point, the machine said, 'Charging. Stand back. Ready for charge.' And then it delivered a very powerful shock to the doctor's heart. And two or three seconds later, the doctor got his pulse back and started breathing again." He's expected to make a complete recovery.

By the next day, Caplis says, he began receiving what he describes as "press calls" about his role in saving Dr. Thompson — "but I didn't want to talk about it unless and until the doctor's family thought it was the right time and the right thing to do. So I asked station management not to do a story, and to let me not talk about it on our show, until it appeared somewhere else. It was too meaningful and moving an experience to treat like just another topic on the show."

Which isn't to say the subject remains off-limits. Following the publication of the Greene column, KHOW sent out a press release about Caplis' actions, and he confirms that he'll talk about it on this afternoon's broadcast. But he's trying to avoid seeming self-aggrandizing, declaring, "I'd love to be a hero someday, but I was not a hero last week. I was just a guy with a machine who was part of a team effort that had a great outcome.

"I'm in the radio business, so you know I'm not shy about talking about myself," he concedes. "But this was different. What happened was kind of a sacred thing, and I don't want to cheapen it. But I do think there's value to these stories, because they make people realize the importance of getting one of these machines."

While Caplis had the luxury of having a trained medical professional on hand when he used the AED, he believes even an older child could use the defibrillator without assistance. That's one reason why he's planning to purchase more of them, including "one for the office and one for Aimee's car" — Aimee being his wife, former Channel 4 newscaster Aimee Sporer. "And just walking to the office this morning, two guys stopped me in the parking lot and said, 'We're going to get them. Our secretaries have been on us to get them, and so we are.'"

As a bonus, Caplis says, the price for AEDs has come down since he bought his first. Now a better one than he owns goes for $1,300.

Will Caplis despisers temper their loathing for him because of what happened on Thanksgiving? Don't bet on it. But today, they should give Caplis a free pass. He's certainly earned one.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts

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