Gary Gierlich knows all about heart emergencies. Now he’s helping organize a fun pickleball tournament in support of the cardiology department at Penticton Regional Hospital.
Four years ago, Gierlich was playing pickleball at the Penticton Community Centre when he collapsed due to cardiac arrest.
“I remember getting real dizzy and then down I went,” he recalled.
There was no detectable pulse.
Fellow players quickly called over two lifeguards from the nearby Community Centre pool who used a defibrillator to get his heart beating again. It’s estimated he was out for up to three minutes. The lifeguards later received city awards for their quick professional action.
When Gierlich regained consciousness, he was lying on a stretcher looking up at the face of a BC Ambulance paramedic.
“Her first words to me were, ‘You’re really lucky. This doesn’t happen often.’”
Gierlich spent the next two weeks in hospital; the first at PRH and the next in Kelowna, where surgeons performed a quadruple bypass. Within 10 weeks, Gierlich was back on the court playing pickleball again.
“The healthcare system was amazing. The staff were unbelievably caring and professional,” he said.
The inaugural Cardiac Awareness Penticton Pickleball Tournament, involving PRH staff members and emergency responders, will be held Saturday, July 27 at the Penticton Seniors Centre on South Main Street. The tournament starts at 10:30 a.m. after a brief introductory session. The tournament runs until lunch at around 12:30 p.m.
Proceeds from the Cardiac Awareness Tournament will be shared between PRH and the Penticton Pickleball Club. The club is looking to acquire its own heart defibrillator and add another four outdoor courts at the Seniors Centre.
Gierlich, who is organizing the tournament with Patrick Meyer and other volunteers, sees the event as a way to introduce the game to others while extending kudos to PRH staff and other emergency responders. It also aims to increase public awareness of the cardio and other health benefits of pickleball.
The maximum eight teams from cardiac-related departments, with five players per team, have already signed up. The afternoon will feature a mini-tournament of up to 16 more experienced players, all having been under some type of cardiac care.
Organizers have had a terrific response from a number of local business sponsors. Individual tax deductible donations are also welcome, as well as spectators. For more information, you can email Gary at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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