Man revived after near-fatal heart attack
Three women brought a man back from death’s grasp with an automated external defibrillator and an unyielding determination to save his life, Saturday.
“It was absolutely frightening... I can’t quite put into words the fear and determination in wanting this man to stay on this planet,” Merritt resident Loree Burnham said of Saturday’s resuscitation at the Packing House restaurant in Spences Bridge. “This man wasn’t meant to die that day.”
Loree had just finished the Merritt Motorcycle Toy Run when she decided to meet her husband, Jack, and a friend for refreshments.
“When I got there, I went outside to a nice little area to sit and the fellow was sitting there with a cowboy hat on, and I smiled, then he smiled, and he seemed very fine,” she recalled.
But within five minutes, the man’s breathing had changed.
“He was just heaving and so I ran over there and put my hands on him, and said ‘Are you okay?’ He was looking right through me. He wasn’t there.”
She then screamed out “911.” His pulse was weak and the restaurant patrons laid him out flat on his back.
“He was turning purple and he wasn’t breathing, so I crammed my fingers into his mouth because his jaw would clamp shut numerous times,” Loree explained.
The only other time Loree used CPR was in Grade 7 when she learned the technique on a dummy.
Her first breath didn’t fill the man’s lungs, “so I breathed harder and then you could just hear his lungs fill and it was pretty extraordinary.”
A cook at the restaurant, Karen Peters, who is a first responder with the Spences Bridge Fire Department, rushed out of the kitchen to attend the man. She kneeled down and started administering chest compressions.
“I have never done anything like that, only minor stuff like bumps and bruises and shortness of breath,” she said. “My biggest concern was that I broke his ribs, but you have to, if you’re doing [the compressions].”
Another first responder who happened to be working at the restaurant that day, Wanda Dickinson, was helping both in the kitchen and in the front-of-the-house before rushing to the man.
She organized the defibrillator equipment, administered an airway, coached in CPR and made sure the process was executed properly.
“We did exactly what the machine basically said,” she explained. “I feel like all the training we had has sunk in.”
The three women used an automated external defibrillator that was purchased by the local fire department from money the community raised. The machine talked the women through the process and shocked the man’s heart when needed.
Still, the man turned purple, was cold to the touch and made “scary” noises.
The ambulance dispatch co-ordinator from Lytton said the ambulance would arrive in 30 minutes.
Loree’s husband, Jack, was doubtful the Lytton man, who appeared to be in his 50s, would survive.
“The guy was so purple and he was really gone for like 20 minutes,” he said. “They had been at it for so long and, you know, this isn’t TV.”
But the man’s skin returned to pink, his pulse came back and he said, “What happened?”
Since the resuscitation, Loree has spoken to the man bedded at Kelowna General Hospital.
“He said, ‘Good luck doesn’t usually happen to me,’ which broke my heart,” she said, noting doctors confirmed he suffered a heart attack.
The day has been replaying in Loree’s mind, and she’s found it difficult to sleep.
“I kind of turned into someone I didn’t know I could be,” she said. “I don’t know if it was instinct or passion, but I know that as a team, we kept this man on this planet.”