Can you restart a heart?

Mike Smith and Wayne Johnston demonstrate the benefits of CPR by bringing back Ken Zerr after heart failure at Ladysmith's Coastal Trucking

Wayne Johnston (left) and Mike Smith demonstrate the technique they used to restart Ken Zerr’s heart earlier this month.

Wayne Johnston (left) and Mike Smith demonstrate the technique they used to restart Ken Zerr’s heart earlier this month.

Do you know CPR? Do your co-workers?

If the answers to these questions are ‘no,’ maybe it’s time to change that.

Just ask Ken Zerr.

An employee at Ladysmith’s Coastal Trucking, Zerr is probably still alive today because of the quick CPR applied by his co-worker Mike Smith and neighbouring mechanic Wayne Johnston during a suspected heart attack last week.

According to Zerr’s son Kevin, the incident took place the afternoon of April 2. His dad had just returned to the shop after a trip to Nanaimo with Smith. Ken was showing no signs of distress or discomfort.

He went one way to put some stuff away and Smith went the other. Smith returned to discover Ken down.

“Mike and Wayne just started doing CPR,” Kevin said. “Dad didn’t have a pulse and he wasn’t breathing.”

The pair’s efforts were successful. They got Ken’s lungs moving and his heart pumping again before the ambulance arrived and Ken is alive to tell the tale of his narrow escape.

Some, including his family, would say Ken was very fortunate to have collapsed where he did. Smith and Johnston are both volunteer Ladysmith firefighters — certified, skilled and experienced in the art of medical first response.

Both men are glad they were there to help, but they say this story is not about them, but about the skills they have.

And the lesson readers should take away is that CPR is a skill anyone can acquire — it should be common in every workplace or any place where people gather.

According to Johnston, with some basic, easily available training, anyone can save a life, whether at work, at home, or just out and about.

“Businesses should get their employees trained in first-aid,” he said. “You can pull from that toolbox and you do.”

Johnston owns and operates VI Truck Tech. He said he has offered his staff first-aid training and encourages the managers of any place where people gather to do the same.

He’s also pleased to see the increasing presence of automated external defibrillators — basically a portable CPR machine for dummies — in public places and hopes more private and public enterprises get on board with having them on site.

Johnston said Ladysmith Fire/Rescue responds, on average, to one cardiac arrest a month. He said that more often than not, the victim doesn’t live past the week. One of the reasons is time; no matter how fast first responders get on scene, every second is precious. Having someone already on hand with CPR training can make all the difference in the world.

“You don’t have that five-minute drive,” Smith said.

Both men believe having trained people on the scene immediately is the reason why Ken is alive.

“It was the perfect storm of success,” he said.

When the Chronicle talked to him Tuesday, Kevin said his dad was resting comfortably in Nanaimo Regional General Hospital, being monitored and awaiting a trip to Victoria for further tests. He said doctors suspect a heart attack, but have yet to confirm that diagnosis. Ken, 60, is a diabetic.

Regardless, Kevin can’t say enough about the men who made sure the family can still enjoy Ken’s company.

“He feels great. He’s bored in the hospital,” he said. “We’re going to be doing something for them. We can’t thank them enough.”

The Town of Ladysmith is offering courses in emergency and standard first aid, as well as a CPR recertification class at the end of May. Call 250-245-6424 for information.

Smith said courses are also available in our region through St. John Ambulance and some private companies. Discounts for large groups and businesses are frequently available.

And they too can save a life.

“If you have 20 guys there, you can put everyone through it.”

Ladysmith Chronicle

Just Posted

Most Read