It was Easter Sunday and 15-year-old Danny and his parents were driving home in the rural outskirts of Sudbury when they saw someone on the side of the road wildly waving their arms.
“We were driving home from Easter dinner at our friend’s house,” Danny describes. “My dad saw out of the corner of his eye people calling for him in the ditch. We turned around to see what was happening.”
Danny’s father, ACT’s Medical Director in Sudbury, Dr. Robert Lepage, pulled up to find 83-year-old Henry collapsed on the side of the road. Henry and his wife had just finished Easter dinner at their daughter and son-in-law’s house and had decided to walk the quarter mile back to their own house. When they were almost there, Henry collapsed.
Danny and Dr. Lepage jumped from their car to find Henry in cardiac arrest. Dr. Lepage started CPR and after a few minutes asked Danny if he was prepared to take over compressions while he ran back to their car to grab his medical kit.
“I said ‘Yes, I can do it,” Danny remembers. “I started doing compressions. A neighbour showed up and started doing CPR with me and my Mom, and we kept rotating back and forth for about 15 minutes until the ambulance showed up.”
When the paramedics arrived, “they said ‘Keep going,’” Danny recalls. “Dad and the paramedics were setting up the automated external defibrillator (AED) and they gave him shocks and told me to keep going with compressions.”
Dr. Lepage and the paramedics then put Henry in the ambulance to transport him to the hospital in Sudbury. They kept working on him during the 25-minute ride, and about 15 minutes out, Henry woke up, was breathing on his own, was following commands, and was fully alert.
Henry suffered another cardiac arrest in hospital two days later and passed away the next day. But his family is so grateful to Danny and Dr. Lepage for giving them the extra days to spend with Henry.
“We had three days with him. The family came in from out of town and we had a chance to say goodbye,” says Henry’s son-in-law Joey. “He was 83 years old. He had a history of blocked arteries. He had had bypass surgery once. The doctors told him he was on borrowed time, but he accepted that.”
Joey credits Danny’s CPR training with teaching him how to react in the emergency situation. “Danny did a terrific job,” he praises. “I can still see the look on Danny’s face. It was all happening so fast, but he jumped in there and did his part.”
Dr. Lepage agrees: “Danny didn’t hesitate for a second; he jumped in and said ‘I’m good to go.’ He wasn’t rattled at all.”
Dr. Lepage, who has been an emergency physician and medical director of the land and air ambulance programs in Sudbury for 20 years, says the fact that Henry survived after the initial cardiac arrest “was truly an Easter miracle.”
“I’ve been part of a thousand cardiac arrests and I know the odds of survival. The odds of getting a pulse back after 15 minutes of CPR, especially when you are in your eighties and have had bypass surgery are very low. The fact that he survived is a credit to the great CPR he got.”
Indeed, Dr. Lepage has high praise for Danny. “I was really proud of him. I was proud of the way he reacted, that he didn’t hesitate to jump right in there. He knew exactly what to do and that’s a credit to the Grade 9 CPR course and to his training.”
In fact, Danny will return to that Grade 9 CPR course this year as he recounts the story to this year’s class and shares with them his experience of performing CPR in a real-life emergency situation.
The ACT High School CPR Program was set up in Danny’s high school in 2007, thanks to generous community and provincial-level support that enabled the donation of mannequins, teacher training and curriculum resources. The lead community partners in Sudbury are Vale Canada Ltd., Sudbury Regional Hospital Emergency Physicians, and Tracks and Wheels Equipment Brokers Inc. Provincial partners of the program are the Government of Ontario, Hydro One, and The Ontario Trillium Foundation.
The Advanced Coronary Treatment (ACT) Foundation is an award-winning, national charitable organization dedicated to establishing CPR and AED 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.
ACT’s national health partners supporting the program in Ontario 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.