The Sr. Fit Family along with Nick Lebedoff in the back row

Living Well – Hearts and angels out in force on Valentine’s Day

Vicky Trill's monthly column on fitness and nutrition - and being grateful for public AEDs.

Over the past two years, a group of over 20 Seniors has been meeting regularly at the Cache Creek Hall to workout. In the name of functional fitness and fun, the Seniors have not only been increasing their health, they have also become connected at the heart, like a family. On this last Valentine’s day, Friday, Feb. 14,  that heart connection was put to the test when one of the family members’ heart stopped.

Nick Lebedoff has been a dedicated, hard working member of the Sr. Fit Family for over a year. None of us could have known that inside his fit body, his heart was a ticking time bomb.

Nick came to the Valentine’s “Olympic Games Day” with his Team Canada t-shirt, ready to move and have fun doing some “Olympic events.” He and his four team members began on the “luge” (little floor scooters with wheels) where they scooted through the course mimicking the luge. There was a lot of laughter as over 20 Seniors were having fun at their various “events.”

Someone said, “You should take a picture!” and I went to retrieve my camera. As I did, I heard someone shout. I turned to look and what I saw made the laughter stop. Nick, who had just been smiling and laughing, was face down on the floor. Al Mertens, Judy Klassen and I shook him and called his name, but there was no response. Al rolled Nick over and what I saw then will forever be burned in my mind. My friend had purple lips and deathly white skin. We checked for a pulse and breath and there was none….nothing!

Immediately, Al began CPR compressions, Judy maintained the airway and I used my cell to call 911 as I knelt down beside Nick’s lifeless body. Ken Klassen knelt down beside us ready to help and I heard someone say, “Is there an AED here?!”

In a moment, the Automated External Defibrillator (AED) was there. Maria Russel-Martin retrieved it but as Maria was without her glasses, Judy Roy took charge of its use. As Al and  Judy continued CPR, I continued Coaching along with the 911 dispatcher. Ken followed the pictures on the AED chest pads and placed them on Nick’s still lifeless body. The AED directed us to stand clear while it analyzed Nick’s heart and then it said, “shock advised.”

Judy Roy pressed the AED button to administer the “shock.” I’ve only ever seen someone defibrillated on TV, and although it looked the same to see it, it felt totally different to watch.

We didn’t notice any change right away and the AED said, “continue compressions” so Al did and shortly after, we heard a few breath sounds. Again, the AED told us to “stand clear, analyzing.” This time however, it only wanted us to continue compressions. The five of us continued, with the AED occasionally asking us to stand clear while it analyzed. I don’t remember how many times this happened, but at some point Ken Klassen took over compressions for Al and after maybe 15 minutes from the beginning, we noticed Nick breathing more and moving. He was alive! We stopped compressions and encouraged him to breath.

Somewhere in these moments I noticed that Jack Jeyes was also on the phone with another 911 operator who was having him relay what was happening. I also noticed that the other 16 Sr. Fit members were doing just the right thing: Some were praying, others were waiting to wave the ambulance in, propping the doors open, or just staying out of the way. No one panicked. It was as if we had practiced this situation before, as a team, and it was beautiful. Nick was dead and now he was alive!

The Ambulance arrived and Nick wanted to get on the stretcher by himself. The paramedics told us: “Good job!” When they left with Nick, we all sat down in a circle on the gym floor to just settle down and talk about what we had just experienced. I felt like throwing up, some wanted to cry, some were thankful for the power of prayer and Al was happy that he was able to use the years of on the job First Aid training he’d received. I called Nick’s wife to let her know about Nick’s apparent heart attack, but that he was semi-conscious and on his way in the ambulance to the Ashcroft Hospital.

Less than a half hour later, we brought Nick’s car and things to the hospital for his wife, Arlene, who insisted that I see Nick right away. When I entered the Emergency Room, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Nick was sitting up, smiling. With a little laugh he said, “Sorry for the scare.”

More than 20 of the Sr. Fit Family were together again for another workout on the following Monday. We marvelled at what happened and how we worked together as a team, and we are so thankful for the beautiful miracle on Valentines Day!

Vicky Trill

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