Suddenly, Heather Forrester’s world slammed to a halt.
Moments before, she had been relaxing in her living room with her husband Ross Forrester, when she heard him gasp for air and then stop moving. He was in cardiac arrest, right in their home. Heather had to move quickly to save his life. Gathering up her courage, she called 9-1-1 and told the BC Ambulance Service (BCAS) emergency medical dispatcher what was happening.
"I was so scared. I knew I had to act fast and handle things as calmly as possible. The ambulance dispatcher was excellent," said Heather. "They took my information and immediately knew what I should do to help Ross. I had never done cardiopulmonary resuscitation before, but they guided me through CPR - right there on the phone."
She was able to perform CPR on Ross with help from the BC Ambulance Service dispatcher while an ambulance was en route. When the one she loved was in need, Heather was there.
"When it comes to sudden cardiac arrest, time is of the essence. Heather's courageous actions saved her husband's life," said Health Minister Terry Lake. "I have seen firsthand how important CPR is for someone in medical distress, and the difference it can make to a family when they see their loved one make a full recovery."
Ross recovered, but without immediate help, a sudden cardiac arrest patient can suffer brain damage within three minutes and after 12 minutes, it's unlikely they'll survive.
"Most cardiac incidents happen at home. BCAS dispatchers are always able to provide CPR instruction over the phone, but when bystanders know CPR, they offer the best chance of survival to their partner, family and friends," said Shane Code, BCAS superintendent, North Okanagan District. "Make learning CPR a priority for you and your family this year - you could save someone's life."
Today, Heather stands with Ross while she receives the BC Ambulance Service's Vital Link Award for saving his life. The award helps recognize 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.
"I can't underestimate the importance of CPR, and Ross and I thank the amazing efforts of BC Ambulance Service dispatchers and paramedics," said Heather. "You never think it will happen to you, until it does. Show your loved ones how much you care and learn CPR."
This February, we recognize Heart Month, an important time to learn more about heart health. Cardiovascular disease is the second leading cause of death in this province, claiming nearly 6,000 British Columbians a year. Through physical activity, healthy diet and lifestyle changes, British Columbians can greatly reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease.
Looking to take a first-aid course?
Red Cross: www.redcross.ca
St. John's Ambulance: www.sja.ca
For more information on the BC Ambulance Service Vital Link Award, visit: www.bcas.ca/in-the-community/community-awards/
February is Heart Month. For heart-health tips and information, visit: heartmonth.heartandstroke.ca/site/c.jhLOKYPDLqF/b.5203909/k.BEF8/Home.htm
Media Relations Manager
Ministry of Health
250 952-1887 (media line)
BC Ambulance Service
778 679-5641 (cell)