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“You turn the light off and go to sleep… the next thing you know, you’re being rushed to the hospital.”
Geoff had been feeling some discomfort for several days. “I wouldn’t call it pain,” explains Geoff. “It was just a sensation — like when your muscles ache when you’re tired. I had that in my arm and in my chest, but it wasn’t persistent.”
On a Monday night, Geoff went to bed as usual. But just after midnight, his wife Dianne was awakened by a sound, as though Geoff was snoring really loudly. “She turned the light on and saw I was gasping for air,” says Geoff. “She quickly called 9-1-1. My daughter heard my wife speaking excitedly on the phone.”
That’s when Alexandria, 17, ran in. “My mom’s on the phone with 9-1-1 and she’s saying ‘Alex, stay calm! Stay calm!’” recalls Alexandria. “The dispatcher asked my mom if she knew CPR. She said ‘No – but my daughter does.’”
Just a few months prior, Alexandria had completed a CPR course at Cairine Wilson Secondary School, which participates in the ACT High School CPR and Defibrillator Program. “It [the training] was still fresh,” she explained.
Alexandria began performing CPR. “My adrenaline was pumping so the compressions didn’t tire me out,” says Alexandria. “When you’re in the moment, you don’t go back and think about your course – you just do it.”
Alexandria continued with the compressions until EMS arrived. “When I heard them on our staircase, I counted my compressions out loud so they’d know exactly where I was when they walked in.” Geoff was defibrillated then rushed to the hospital for an angioplasty. “Three days later, I was home,” says Geoff. “I feel great!”
Paramedics later commended Alexandria for performing CPR, saying that Geoff is alive today thanks to her actions. “We’re always going to have a special bond between us,” says Alexandria, who composed a heartfelt poem for Geoff’s birthday just one week later. “I’m adopted… so in a way, he saved my life – and now I saved his life.”
As for the CPR techniques that saved Geoff’s life that night: “You can never have too much training,” asserts Geoff, who learned CPR through the military. “You may never need it, but it’s always there to draw upon. You only have to save one life to make it worth it.”
Alexandria readily agrees. “I told my mom and brother they should take a course.” She also advises students to take every opportunity to learn it. “It is definitely worth it!”
The ACT High School CPR Program began as a pilot project in 1994 in Ottawa area schools including Cairine Wilson Secondary School. The donation of mannequins, teacher training and curriculum resources was made possible thanks to generous provincial and community-level support, including that of the Kiwanis Club of Ottawa as the lead community partner for the CPR program.
ACT’s national health partners supporting the program in Ottawa and throughout Canada are: AstraZeneca Canada, Pfizer Canada and Sanofi. They provide ACT’s sustaining funding and are committed to the Foundation’s national goal of promoting health and empowering Canadians to save lives.
The Advanced Coronary Treatment (ACT) Foundation is an award-winning, national charitable organization dedicated to establishing CPR and Defibrillator training in high schools across Canada. ACT raises funds to donate mannequins and teacher training to schools, and guides schools in program set-up and long-term sustainability. Over 1.8 million youth have been trained in CPR by their teachers through this lifesaving program to date.