Quick response saves woman’s life

A Manitoba woman owes her life to the team at the Vernon Recreation Complex.

A Manitoba woman owes her life to the team at the Vernon Recreation Complex.

Complex staff came to the rescue after a 36-year-old woman from Killarney, Man. fell off the treadmill Jan. 24 and experienced sudden death syndrome.

“I’m very proud of them,” said Doug Ross, recreation services manager.

Sudden death syndrome is a sudden cardiac death, but not a heart attack. The survival rate is less than one per cent of the less than one per cent of the population who suffer from it.

The woman — who is married and has three children — is in Victoria having a pacemaker installed and reported to be doing well.

The emergency began when the woman fell off a treadmill and appeared to be having a seizure. Another person in the fitness room alerted the front desk and Norlene Keller, aquatics programmer, and Gary Lefebvre, aquatic leader, were alerted.

The woman was unresponsive and not breathing, so Lefebvre immediately started compressions (CPR) while Keller got the automated external defribulator (AED) ready. They were joined by lifeguard Laura Hitchen, who took care of the breathing.

Within seconds of the AED being connected to the patient, it indicated that a shock was necessary. That was provided and then CPR continued.

Eventually, the woman began breathing and she was taken to hospital by paramedics.

A cardiac specialist says the efforts of Keller, Lefebvre and Hitchen, particularly providing shock, saved the woman’s life.

“They’re all certified lifeguards,” said Ross of recreation complex staff.

“They annually have to keep their certifications up but they also do training four times a year. They’re considered first responders.”

This is the second time in a month that a lifeguard saved someone visiting the complex.

On Jan. 3, Hitchen kept a 13-month-old boy from choking to death on a quarter.

Ross says the public should have complete confidence in the staff’s abilities to handle any medical emergency.

“People see the guards on the pool deck and they may not consider the other things the guards have to be prepared for,” he said.

Lefebvre, Keller and Hitchen asked not to be interviewed about the Jan. 24 incident.