Steve Holland has a lot to be thankful for this holiday season. He is thankful for the competent staff at the Bayside YMCA and members who came to his aid after he suffered cardiac arrest at the West Street facility on Monday, Dec. 2.
Last week, Mr. Holland and his wife Kim met with staff members to thank them for all they did that fateful evening. He said he is feeling fine and his on his way to a full recovery.
“All I remember is talking with my friend Frank (Fitz) after I had gotten off the elliptical machine. Next thing I know I’m being taken to the hospital in the ambulance,” Mr. Holland said.
The events that took place between the time Mr. Holland collapsed and woke up on a stretcher are the reasons he will spend the holidays with his wife and three children.
Joe Martino, the executive director at Bayside YMCA, and membership director Meagan McKissick and wellness center staff member Geri Purcell filled in the missing pieces of the story for the Hollands.
As the group met, Mr. Holland hugged the ladies and thanked them profusely. Not surprisingly, Mr. Holland didn’t recognize their faces.
“It’s nice to see you looking so well. The last time I saw you, you weren’t doing so good,” Mrs. Purcell joked.
On Monday, Dec. 2 at about 5:45 p.m., Mrs. Purcell was close to finishing her shift in the Bayside wellness center when from across the room she saw Mr. Holland sort of “crumble to the ground.”
“I thought he was having a seizure and I ran over and rolled him on his back and cleared his airway. I called out to see if there was a doctor there and luckily there were four physicians in the room. A member asked if she could help and dialed 911. I called Meagan upstairs who responded with the AED (automated external defibrillator),” Mrs. Purcell said.
Meanwhile, one the physicians (who wished to remain anonymous) performed CPR on Mr. Holland.
Mrs. McKissick retrieved one of the three AEDs the YMCA has on hand and started the process of administering the device.
“I unzipped it and handed the pads to one of the physicians on hand and followed the instructions. The device worked perfectly and was only needed to be used the one time. I think he needed the shock and regained a steady heartbeat,” she said.
An AED is portable device that checks the heart rhythm and sends an electric shock to the heart to try to restore a normal rhythm. They are used in situations like this one to treat sudden cardiac arrest (SCA).
If it wasn’t for staff jumping into action and the availability of the AED, the outcome may have been very different and very tragic.
SCA usually causes death if it’s not treated within minutes. In fact, each minute of SCA leads to a 10 percent reduction in survival.
Frank Legro, a staff member and personal friend of the Holland family, called Mrs. Holland on her cell phone and said her husband was “down” and the ambulance was on the way.
Rescue teams from both Barrington and Warren arrived within minutes of receiving the 911 call and took over for the volunteer rescuers. EMTs were working on the her husband when Mrs. Holland arrived. He had regained consciousness and although confused, he was alert.
“I’m a pretty calm person and actually thought he broke a leg or something. When I arrived, Frank (Legro) was waiting and took me by the hand to Steve. He was alert and talking and I heard him say to the EMTs, ‘don’t cut my shirt’. I knew he was alright then,” she said.
In the chaos of leaving for Rhode Island Hospital Mrs. Holland said out loud, “What about my car?”
“A woman said she would drive it home for me. I didn’t know her but she knew where I lived. That’s the beauty of living in a small town, people are willing to help. We are so thankful for this community,” she said.
At the hospital emergency room, Mr. Holland was stable and his EKG came back perfect, Mrs. Holland said.
They kept him monitored overnight and a day later he was tested to see what caused the SCA. It was determined that he had an 80 percent blockage of one of his arteries and a stent was inserted to open the passageway. He stayed in the hospital for three days and went home under orders to take it easy.
Mr. Holland isn’t overweight, is a non-smoker, exercises and tries to eat right. He is from a family of hockey players and although he doesn’t play much lately, skating was always part of his exercise routine.
He has been coming to the Bayside Y since his family move to Barrington in 1967 (then known as the Barrington YMCA) and he and his wife have had a family membership since they were married more than 30 years ago.
“I learned to swim here and my kids learned to swim here. I have been coming off and on over the years but have been coming regularly for about a year. My good friend Frank Fitz needed a ride after suffering a stroke so we would come three days a week,” he said.
Before the incident, he said he felt fine — no symptoms of heart issues whatsoever.
“Heart disease runs on my dad’s side but I never thought I would have a heart problem. I’m 58 and still feel invincible like when I was younger. Now I have a whole new outlook on life and plan on being as healthy as possible,” he said.
Fortunately, he hasn’t experienced any pain throughout this entire ordeal. He was scheduled to see his cardiologist and begin cardiac rehabilitation after a stress test.
“I got another chance and I’m going do it right,” he said.
“I am so thankful that I was here when this happened. If I had been anywhere else the outcome would probably be very different,” he said.
On their toes
Mr. Martino said the Y staff are all trained in first aid and CPR which includes use of the AED.
“The staff sprung in to action and put their training to use. With the six to seven hundred people that come through this building daily, we want our staff to be ready for any situation. Fortunately we haven’t had an incident like this to utilize that training, but it’s comforting to know we can respond in an emergency. I am very proud of them,” he said.
The importance of AEDs
Dr. Robert Schwengel, a cardiologist and a member of the Bayside YMCA supporter, shed some light on the importance of AEDs. Although he was not at the YMCA the night of the incident, he stressed the importance these devices in the event of similar emergencies.
“While I am not privy to the details of the specific case recently at the Bayside YMCA, it is clear that this victim of sudden cardiac arrest, as well as many hundreds or thousands of other victims across the country, have been saved by the innovative technology of Automatic External Defibrillators (AEDs). The bystanders and staff at the Bayside YMCA should be commended for their quick and appropriate action; otherwise the outcome could have been quite different,” Dr. Schwengel said.
The Barrington doctor said that defibrillation, or directed electrical shock, of lethal abnormal heart rhythms, can now be quickly and effectively applied by the use of AEDs. Time is of the essence, literally very few minutes, for this therapy to be successful, as the chance for successful resolution of abnormal heart rhythms decreases exponentially as minutes elapse. Therefore, placement of AEDs in public or high risk areas, and the training of staff, is vital for saving these lives.
AEDs are automated, relatively easy to use and self-explanatory so that even untrained bystanders have had significant success, he said. Most states, including Rhode Island and Massachusetts, have Good Samaritan laws that cover the goodwill use of these devices by any bystander, as well as mandatory well-marked placement in municipal offices, schools, health clubs, swimming pools, etc. and most police cruisers are also equipped. Many states also now require basic CPR and AED instruction for all high school graduates.
“The Bayside YMCA is committed to a safe and healthy environment for exercise and healthy living, as well as a commitment to education for prevention and treatment of health related issues. Therefore, they have been participating in a healthy living educational series, supported by Southcoast Health Systems, which has included education on cardiovascular illness and prevention, as well as promotion of continued exercise after cardiac rehabilitation from cardiac events,” Dr. Schwengel said.
— By Joan D. Warren