By Shelby Sebens
PORTLAND, Ore., May 6 (Reuters) - Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber on Monday performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation on a woman suffering from cardiac arrest, possibly saving the ailing and unconscious woman's life, authorities said on Tuesday.
Kitzhaber, a former emergency room doctor, was on his way to dinner when he spotted a man attempting to revive a woman sprawled on the ground near the roadway in downtown Portland and asked his driver to pull over, said Nkenge Harmon Johnson, Kitzhaber's communications director.
"The governor told me that he assessed the woman's situation," Johnson said. "She was in severe distress. He secured her airway and began CPR."
Lt. Rich Chatman, public information officer of Portland Fire and Rescue, said Kitzhaber's action was key to saving the woman, who at last check was conscious and breathing.
"Early CPR, we know now, is one of the most critical components," he added.
Fire and rescue responded to the scene and administered additional life-saving techniques on the woman, who had likely gone into cardiac arrest moments before Kitzhaber spotted her.
"I don't think they realized until they even got on scene that it was the governor," Chatman said, adding it was not surprising given the governor's background.
Kitzhaber had previously helped someone with a medical emergency at a public event, Harmon Johnson said.
Chatman did not have the woman's name and said he did not know what caused her heart to fail. But he said Kitzhaber's quick reaction to save the woman likely helped because the chance of survival from a heart attack without quick intervention is small.
"I hear that she is recovering and expected to be OK," Harmon Johnson said.
Kitzhaber, a Democrat and the state's longest-serving governor, is in his third term and running for a fourth. (Editing by Dan Whitcomb and G Crosse)