On a sunny January day, David, 82, was enjoying a walk with his wife in Victoria, B.C. “My wife said I mentioned that I felt better that day than I had for a long time,” says David. “Then, I collapsed.” David had suffered a sudden cardiac arrest.
Meanwhile, 17-year-old Thomas had just completed a calculus exam at Claremont Secondary School and was headed home for lunch. “I was thinking about the next exam,” explains Thomas. “Then I noticed a man on the sidewalk and there were a few people standing around him.
Thomas was quick to react. “I just thought ‘Uh oh, someone’s in trouble – I’d better go help!’ I got off my scooter and ran up to him.” One of the bystanders was already on the phone with 911. “I checked the man’s vitals and he wasn’t breathing.”
Without hesitation, Thomas began performing chest compressions while David’s wife, Jennifer, assisted with breaths. “I didn’t really know CPR,” says Jennifer. “Thomas just came rushing up and said ‘I know what to do, I’m trained!’” Thomas continued CPR until first responders arrived with an automated external defibrillator (AED). After two shocks, David’s pulse returned.
“He was tremendous,” says Jennifer of Thomas’s actions. “We are so fortunate that he had the training and ability to perform CPR.”
Thomas knew what to do thanks to his training as a swim instructor and through the ACT High School CPR and Defibrillator Program. “We learned CPR in phys ed.” explains Thomas. “All throughout the training, I thought ‘Oh yeah, I’ll never have to deal with someone in a cardiac arrest…’ – and then I had to deal with it.” The program was established at Claremont Secondary School in 2009 with the support of community partner TELUS.
“So many people don’t know how to do CPR,” says Thomas. “Yet everyone should because it’s so simple.” David agrees: “I wouldn’t be here without Thomas. For students to learn CPR, I think it’s excellent. Like Thomas, there could be an occasion where it’s essential that they perform that kind of action.”
The Advanced Coronary Treatment (ACT) Foundation is a national charitable organization that has empowered more than 2.6 million youth across Canada to save lives. With generous provincial-level support from BC Emergency Health Services, ACT is equipping Claremont Secondary School teachers and others across British Columbia with the necessary resources to provide hands-on CPR and defibrillation training to students each year. AstraZeneca Canada, Pfizer Canada and Sanofi are ACT’s health partners in B.C. and across Canada, and are committed to the Foundation’s goal of promoting health while ensuring lifesaving skills become basic life skills for generations of Canadians.