Earl Morris thanks first-aid professionals and the staff at the Cowichan District Hospital for saving his life after having a heart attack. (File photo)

First aid training becomes real deal after student suffers heart attack

AED likely saved his life

When Nanaimo’s Earl Morris signed up for his first-aid class with St. John Ambulance, he thought he’d be learning to give CPR, not be on the receiving end.

Morris was taking a first-aid class at the Cowichan Valley Training Centre in downtown Duncan earlier this month when he went into cardiac arrest.

Morris said all he remembers is sitting in a chair in the first-aid training room and blacking out.

He said he didn’t regain consciousness until he was in the hospital.

Fortunately his instructor in the class was Paul McCoy, who is also a trained first responder with the St. John Ambulance Brigade.

Morris was non-responsive and not breathing, so the first thing McCoy did was start CPR.

James Sarkany of Victoria, immediately began giving chest compressions.

Another student was dispatched to get the automated external defibrillator from the office and the instructor in the classroom next door was sent for.

That instructor was Heather Haskett who brought oxygen and a bag-valve-mask that advanced first aiders are trained to use.

The three rescuers worked as a team giving CPR, providing oxygen and connecting the AED.

Morris was shocked three times before the paramedics arrived, and they shocked him six more times before racing him to the hospital.

Morris survived the ordeal and is now home and back at work.

“I was extremely fortunate because it’s likely I would not be talking to you now without the help of these people,”said Morris, who had never had a heart problem before.

“I could have been alone at the time or, even worse, driving down the road so it was unbelievably good luck that it happened where it did. The first-aid people were terrific, as were the staff at the Cowichan District Hospital.”

Morris said a pacemaker has been placed in his heart to help deal with any future problems.

“I work for AFD Petroleum and management had already decided to place an AED machine in all of its eight branches,” he said.

“The company is trying to be proactive and remain ahead of the curve.”

Ann Saele, a spokeswoman for the CVTC, said the incident shows the importance of CPR and first-aid training and having an AED on site, especially in the workplace.

“AEDs save lives, and more businesses and organizations are acquiring them,” she said.

“It is not a requirement for a business to have one but the benefits, and the number of lives saved, are well documented.”



robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

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