OTTAWA--A remarkable effort from emergency personnel and team officials saved the life of an Orleans man who suffered a heart attack while watching a Smiths Falls Bears Junior A game Nov. 11.
Joe McGrath, the grandfather of Bears rookie defenseman Connor McGrath, collapsed during the latter stages of the first period after suffering a cardiac arrhythmia.
Within seconds, Smiths Falls firefighter Paul Bisonette, on hand to see the game against the Cumberland Grads, reached Mr. McGrath who was seated in his customary portable chair next to his son. He lay him down on the cement floor and immediately began CPR.
"I jumped out of my seat," he said, explaining he started on chest compressions as soon as he could. "I just kept doing compressions, compressions, compressions for about two minutes."
At the same time, Bears trainer Tom Arnold left the players' bench to get the arena's Automated External Defibrillator (AED) and bring it to the scene.
There, Smiths Falls trainer Dale McCabe, a Lanark County Paramedic, placed the pads on the man's chest and, after having Bisonette halt CPR, administered the electric shock to restart the heart.
Shortly after Bisonette resumed CPR, McCabe says, Mr. McGrath began breathing on his own and was even uttering words to the personnel gathered around him.
"It was unbelievable...the amount of excellent talent came together in, I'd say, half a minute," Arnold said. "Everything just fell into place."
McCabe said it had already been a busy night at the bench with a number of injuries to players. But when the coach called to him and he saw Arnold running off to get the defibrillator, he too left the bench to assist.
"Basically, I jumped into my training," he said, noting it was such a feeling of relief when the patient returned to life shortly after he administered the first shock.
"Joe started showing signs of life" and "amazingly" was starting to speak to those around him soon after. "Everything came together at the right time," McCabe said. "It's very satisfying when you get a result like that."
He credits Bisonette for reaching Mr. McGrath as quickly as he did and then doing the proper compressions.
"That's the golden few minutes," he said. "It's absolutely key. Good CPR really oxygenates the heart."
Like McCabe, Bisonette said his own training from instructor Judy Nichols kicked in.
"It's the first time I've done CPR on a person and revived them," he said. "I was in the right place at the right time."
After McCabe informed him Mr. McGrath had a pulse, Bisonette says he looked up and saw "nothing but eyes on me... Then I looked back up to the sky and said 'thank you'."
Mr. McGrath was taken to the Smiths Falls site of the Perth & Smiths Falls District Hospital before being transferred to the University of Ottawa Heart Institute. He remained there over the next 10 days and received a new pacemaker with built-in defibrillator.
"I got the Cadillac," he said during a brief telephone interview from his home on Tuesday having been released from the Heart Institute the day before.
"I thank God for all the people who helped me out," he added. "I'm so appreciative. There are no words that I can find to thank everyone."
In a letter to the community, he and his wife Betty also thank Cumberland Grads trainer Mario Dupuis, Dr. Moran, a cardiologist who was attending the game, and the local first responders, all of whom contributed to saving his life.
Mr. McGrath says he feels like he's been given a second chance at life.
"I really do. I really thank the people of Smiths Falls. They were great."
He adds he'd like to return to a game sometime in the future "but not straight away."
McCabe says one doesn't want to have to use a defibrillator but notes they are invaluable in times of emergency. He encourages as many people as possible to become familiar with how they work and to be trained on them. "Don't be afraid of this machine," he advised.
Arnold says he believes that's the first time the defibrillator has been used at the rink.
"The way I look at it, they're expensive units but you use it once and it pays for itself 100 times," he said.
SOURCE: Smith Falls EMC News, by Ryland Coyne