When West Kelowna’s Judy Smith sprang into action to save her husband’s life after he collapsed with a heart attack in September, she did not have CPR training.
But she remembered what she saw on television and started doing chest compressions anyway until her neighbour, retired nurse Sandy Hodgins quickly arrived to take over.
“I was hugely relived when Sandy showed up,” said Smith, knowing Hodgins had proper CPR training.
Hodgins, using that training she received as a nurse, kept working on Joe until the paramedics arrived and the actions of both women are credited with helping bring Joe back from the dead—literally.
When he had his heart attack, his heart stopped and it took paramedics three goes with the defibulator to restart it.
“I noticed that a cut on Joe’s forehead wasn’t bleeding (a sign that his heart had stopped) and I knew I had to do something, said Judy Smith.
But, as she told her husband later, at the time she feared she was not compressing his chest hard enough to do any good. But she was wrong.
“It’s always better to something than to do nothing,” said Hodgins, who lives in the same building as the Smiths and whose husband had been talking to the Smiths outside when Joe collapsed. He alerted hi wife to the emergency and she raced down three stores to assist.
On Wednesday, both women were recognized by the B.C. Ambulance Service for their quick reactions. The pair were presented with Vital Link awards, medals the BCAS gives to civilians who perform CPR and help save lives.
“Bystander CPR is critical to patient survival of a sudden cardiac arrest,” said BCAS Okanagan North Supt. Norm Matheson, who presented the women with their medals at Kelowna General Hospital. “Bystander CPR, our paramedics, use of a defibulatror and the quick response by the STEMI Lab (at KGH’s cardiac care department) combined to ensure a happy ending to this story.”
Matheson said the quick action by Smith and Hodgins underscores the importance of people knowing CPR and not being afraid to use that training.
He said he would like to see B.C. follow the lead of Washington State, where CPR is part of the Grade 10 curriculum for high school students. As a result, Washington State has a higher percentage of out-of-hospital heart attack survivors because more bystanders have CPR training than in B.C.
“About 12 per cent of people (in B.C.) have CRP training,” said Matheson. “We’d like to get that up to 20 per cent.”
He said there are some high schools in B.C. that invite paramedics in to train teachers, who, in turn, train students in CPR. But so far, participation is voluntary on behalf of the schools. Locally, one school that does participate in such a program is Mt. Boucherie Secondary in West Kelowna.
As for the man whose life was saved by the two West Kelonwa women, words cannot begin to describe Joe Smith’s gratitude.
He said he feels like he has been given a second chance at life thanks to his wife of 43 years and his neighbour.
“I’m so glad they were there,” he said.
For Sandy Hodgins, seeing Joe Smith alive after he collapsed was emotional.
She said she only ever needed to do CPR on someone outside a hospital once before, many years ago in Ontario. And that time, the result was tragically very different.
As for Judy Smith, who did not have CPR training when he husband collapsed, she is already planning to change that.
“I have talked to a man with the ambulance service about getting trained,” she said. “I hope I never have to use it but it’ll be good to have it. I think everyone should be trained.”