Journey teaches life lesson

After suffering a cardiac arrest in Okanagan Lake on July 12 my husband made a miraculous recovery...

After suffering a cardiac arrest in Okanagan Lake on July 12 my husband made a miraculous recovery and is now home beginning a slow return to normal life. It is our hope that people read this and gain knowledge as to the importance of knowing CPR and what to do in an emergency situation. We would also like to thank so many people that have been an intimate part of this journey.

7 a.m. Sunday, July 12 a beautiful day begins with our usual one-hour pre-breakfast hike.

8:30 a.m. We are on our way down to Paddlewheel Park, excited about our outrigger paddling trip.

9:30 a.m. We are having a wonderful time with our 12 fellow paddlers as we paddle to Adventure Bay.

10:30 a.m. We head back across Okanagan Lake, on schedule to be back at Paddlewheel  Park by 11 a.m.

10:45 a.m. We are now in the water after a sudden flip of the outrigger due to a wave from a power boat.

11:00 a.m. We have righted, bailed the outrigger and almost everyone is back in the boat.

11:02 a.m.  I am one of the last to get into the boat when I suffer a full cardiac arrest.

11:03 a.m. I am miraculously saved from slipping into the cavern of Okanagan Lake by my fellow paddlers, who somehow manage to get me back into the outrigger. I suffer a fractured nose and a head injury as I go face first into the bottom on the outrigger.

11:05 a.m. I am on my back in the outrigger with no signs of life. CPR is immediately started as I have no pulse and am not breathing. There is no room to do CPR from inside the outrigger – it is done by Christy up on the shoulders of Lars and both are in the water beside the outrigger. We are in 200 feet of water.

11:08 a.m. A boat is flagged over. The boat driver has a cell phone and immediately calls 911.  I am lifted out of the outrigger and placed on the back of the power boat. CPR continues as the boat makes its way to Paddlewheel Park boat ramp.

11:12 a.m. We arrive at the boat ramp and the ambulance is waiting. I am given External Cardiac Shock and my heart begins to beat. I have been dead for 10 minutes.

11:30 a.m.  We arrive at Vernon Jubilee Hospital Emergency where I am put into a drugged induced paralysis. My body is cooled for 24 hours so no further damage is done to my heart or brain.

12:55 a.m. I am on life support in ICU where I remain for the next 12 days, none of which I remember.

7:30 a.m. Friday, July 24 I am on my way to Kelowna General Hospital for a cardiac catheterization and a diagnosis as to the status of my coronary arteries and my heart in general. I am still confused and have trouble remembering anything. I don’t even know where I live and when shown pictures of my home I have no recollection of living there.

9:00 a.m. I am told I have 70 and 80 per cent blocks in all my major coronary arteries. I receive five stents and a couple of balloon dilations to open up my arteries and restore blood flow to my heart.

11:30 a.m. I am back in bed 5 in VJH ICU, restless but my mind is finally beginning to heal and put the pieces together again.  I feel like I have been gone for years.

9 p.m. I have been detached from all my life-saving lines and get to put on my own sleeping clothes. I am exhausted but at least I know I am exhausted. I look at the comfortable bed they have exchanged my ICU bed for and climb in. I fall into a relaxed sleep excited that tomorrow I will know all my friends that have been by my bedside for the past 12 days and that I will soon be going home, back to a life with a future.

This is what I know when I drift into sleep and will be forever grateful:

1. People I was with knew CPR and started it immediately.  Never give up hope or stop CPR until the professionals can take over.

2. Vernon is equipped with the finest support and medical people. Trust in the system and let the professionals do their job.

3. Kelowna is equipped with the latest technology in the new cardiac department. I am the seventh person in North America to receive a new type of stent which the highly trained intervention team is proficient in using.

4. Be patient as healing takes time.

5. Believe in positive thinking and the power of one.  My wife had all our friends on a continual chain of positive energy with hourly messaging.

6. Never go into any sport without the proper equipment and leadership as one never knows when disaster may rear its ugly head.

7. Be fit. I am 64 years old, 5’8”, 165 lbs, an avid outdoors person, non-smoker, non-drinker. No one thought I would be a candidate for a sudden cardiac arrest. Being fit played and will continue to play a huge part in my ability to regain my original life.

8. Get regular check-ups and don’t ignore changes in your overall health. I did not have chest pain but do have a family history of cardiac disease and had feelings of fatigue over the past couple of weeks which I thought was just a passing state.

In closing I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone that was an active part of my survival and well -being.  You are too numerous to name but know from the bottom of my heart I am so thankful to be able to call myself  a husband, a father, a son, a brother, a brother-in-law, a friend and an ordinary guy.

Without you it would have been a different ending to this miraculous story.  I quote from the poem DESIDERATA:

“You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.

And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy.”

Ron Griffin and Donna Elliott


Addendum: As of Aug. 7 Ron is walking three km/day and continues to excel at his full recovery.