The pills her doctor prescribed didn’t relieve the pain and on Oct. 18, 2002, while driving her 15-year-old son Steve home from a doctor’s appointment, she knew something was really wrong. Sylvia, who had driven the route hundreds of times before, could not remember the how to get home.
“Steve had to help me get back on the right roads,” she says. “All the way home it was like this.”
Back at home, Steve recounted the bizarre drive to his father, Wayne, who was just about to leave for his overnight shift at Canada Post. “I told him that she seemed easily confused and very distracted,” he says.
Wayne offered to take his wife to the doctor, but Sylvia said she would go in the morning if her headache still persisted. Wayne headed off to work.
“I remember going to bed,” says Sylvia. “That was it.”
At 4 a.m. Steve was awakened by a noise from his parents’ bedroom. He looked in their room and saw that his mother wasn’t in her bed. After searching the house and finding no sign of her, he went back to the bedroom. This time, he saw her – lying on the floor.
“She had fallen off the bed. That’s why I couldn’t see her from the doorway,” says Steve.
Sylvia had gone into a seizure. Steve, who had recently completed the ACT High School CPR Program at Edmonton’s M.E. Lazerte High School, knew what to do.
“I tried to get her attention by touching her and saying her name,” he says. “She was entirely unresponsive, so I called 911.”
He gave the operator his address and stayed on the line, asking if he should put her in the recovery position. He then went downstairs and unlocked all doors so the paramedics could easily get in. He credits the ACT Program for knowing these steps, as well as for his quick, focused response.
“The program helped me react more calmly,” says Steve.
The paramedics arrived and took over. A team of firefighters also responded to the call. One of them commended him for his actions.
“He told me I did the right thing,” says Steve.
Sylvia was taken to the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton where tests confirmed she had a lump on her brain the size of a golf ball. She was immediately scheduled for surgery, and was sent home the day before. “They sent me home just in case, so I could be with my family,” says Sylvia, who still cherishes that time.
On Oct. 29, the day of her husband’s birthday, Sylvia underwent surgery. The operation was a success and she was sent home five days later.
Sylvia says she will be forever grateful to her son. “My doctor told me if I had been in the seizure for another 30 minutes to an hour I would have died,” says Sylvia, who now has a newfound appreciation for life and everyone in it.
Sylvia, her husband, family and friends were, and still are so proud of the way Steve handled and took care of the situation.
After several years of subsequent tests she is happy to report that in November 2006 she was given a clean bill of health.
Still, Steve says he’ll never forget just how close he came to losing his mother. “You always think something like this won’t happen to you or your family. Something like that makes you appreciate them more,” he says.
The ACT High School CPR Program was made possible at M.E. Lazerte High School thanks to generous community and provincial-level support which enabled the donation of mannequins, teacher training and curriculum resources. Community partners in Edmonton are the Kiwanis Club of Edmonton, the Edmonton Community Lottery Board, and Bowes Publishers Limited. Provincial partners of the program Alberta Education and the STARS Foundation (a founding provincial partner in this province).
The Advanced Coronary Treatment (ACT) Foundation is an award-winning, national charitable organization dedicated to establishing CPR in high schools across Canada. ACT raises funds to donate mannequins, teacher training, manuals and other materials to schools, and guides schools in program set-up and long-term sustainability. Teachers teach CPR to their students as a regular part of the curriculum. Over 900,000 youth have been trained in CPR through this lifesaving program to date.
Core partners supporting the program in Alberta and throughout Canada are companies in the research-based pharmaceutical industry: AstraZeneca, Bristol-Myers Squibb Canada, Pfizer Canada and sanofi-aventis. They provide ACT’s sustaining funding and are committed to the Foundation’s national goal of promoting health and empowering Canadians to save lives.