Back in June, Matthew Sawin and his mother Sharon got to add a new qualification to their list of skills: life savers.
Last week, the two long-time residents received BC Ambulance Service (BCAS) Vital Link Awards at a ceremony hosted by local paramedics to recognize the duo’s lifesaving actions during a recent sudden cardiac arrest.
On June 27, 2013, Matthew was changing tires at the family’s business, Princeton Tire, when his customer, Jack Storey suffered a sudden cardiac arrest.
“He was standing right beside me and I was putting his tire on. I thought he tripped. But he just went down,” said Matthew, who immediatly ran inside to tell Sharon to call for help.
“I had to grab that phone and go out in the shop because they were outside. They told me what to do and I told Matthew what to do,” said Sharon. Neither of the Sawins had any experience giving CPR, BCAS emergency medical call-taker Steve Matheson provided detailed instructions over the phone and Matthew began compressions.
Looking back on the incident, the Sawins describe it as nerve-wracking, though they were glad they were in the right place to help.
“We were just super glad we could help him, it was very scary at the time for both of us, because neither of us had handled anything like that,” said Sharon. “But Matthew was fabulous, I’ve got to give him credit. I am really proud of him.”
Within five minutes after Matthew started CPR, off duty BCAS paramedic Sandra Lewis happened to be driving by and saw Matthew doing CPR. She quickly stopped and took over until paramedics arrived a few minutes later. But the Sawins were the vital first link in a chain of care that has Storey back to health. The BCAS attends up to 2,800 cardiac arrest calls each year, but fewer than 12 per cent of people who have a cardiac arrest survive.
“As a paramedic, it is rare to see such a positive outcome for sudden cardiac arrest patients,” said Lewis. “Matthew and Sharon’s quick actions saved Mr. Storey’s life by providing CPR immediately after his arrest. Bystanders sometimes hesitate because they think they may have to do mouth-to-mouth, but calling 9-1-1 and doing chest compressions are all that you need to do. He is alive because of them.”
“I have taken CPR and first aid training in my work and volunteering with the Hedley Fire Department. But little did I know it would be me who needed it,” said Jack Storey. “I give my very humble thanks and appreciation to Matthew, Sharon, Sandra and the other paramedics and medical professionals who cared for me.”
Things are business as usual at Princeton Tire; Matthew is quiet about his role in saving Jack’s life, but is considering taking a CPR course. Jack Storey has made a full recovery and has since returned to Princeton Tire for another tire.
“Even with the best-trained paramedics and the fastest response times, the simple actions of members of the public in the first moments of a medical emergency can be one of the most critical factors in a patient’s outcome,” said BCAS South Okanagan Superintendent Ian Fitzpatrick. “It’s important to remember that CPR saves lives, and the more we encourage everyone to be trained in CPR, the greater the chances of saving lives.”
The Vital Link Award presented to Matthew and Sharon last week at Princeton Tire both recognizes members of the public who save a life and raises awareness of the importance of CPR. A cardiac arrest victim is four times more likely to survive if they receive CPR from a bystander. However, in approximately 85 per cent of all cardiac arrest cases, this basic procedure is not performed.