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Quick actions and CPR save lives

Vital Link awards
Cathie Roy Photo

The CPR saved and saviours met on Dec. 3 to celebrate at the B.C. Ambulance Service Vital Link awards at St. Mary’s Hospital board room. Pictured are from left Kevin MacKenzie, Peter Jordi, Chad Gibson, Karen Apolzer, Kevin Maser, Lois Gory, Marine Dionne and Tonya Stephan, not pictured Ryan Kunce. See more photos in our on-line galleries at

Three local people are alive today thanks to CPR and first aid knowledge.

On Dec. 3, the three residents who saved them — Chad Gibson, Ryan Kunce and Karen Apolzer — were acknowledged and each presented with a medal during a special ceremony at St. Mary’s Hospital boardroom.

Richard Chick, superintendent of District 1, B.C. Ambulance Service (BCAS), said the event was held to “honour three people who had done something really, really special.”

“Bystander CPR is critical to patient survival of a sudden cardiac arrest,” Chick said.

On June 19, Kevin MacKenzie’s day started out normally. He wasn’t feeling well but chalked it up to just being under the weather.

Around 3 p.m. he had pain that lasted about an hour then eased up. A couple of hours later the pain started up again. Gibson, a Sechelt volunteer fireman, told his workmate he should go to the hospital. After MacKenzie phoned his wife and got the order, “Get to the hospital,” the pair drove to St. Mary’s emergency department.

There, MacKenzie went into full-blown cardiac arrest. Gibson, who has taken first aid courses since Grade 11, clambered to perform CPR until the medics could take over.

“It was a definite surprise for the end of the day,” Gibson shared.

Both men said it was fortunate the emergency happened where it did. They work on tugboats and had been up the inlet just two weeks prior to the incident. And while the boats always have personnel trained in first aid, being close to the hospital definitely helped the story have a happy ending. The important thing to remember is that it can happen to anyone, anywhere, at any time, MacKenzie said.

On Aug. 9 Peter Jordi had a tradesman, Kunce, doing work at his home. Fortunately for the homeowner, Kunce decided to linger a bit after his work was done. Jordi collapsed and, via instructions from BCAS emergency medical dispatcher Brian Sarling, his life was saved by the actions of Kunce.

Although Kunce was unable to attend the awards ceremony, in an earlier news release he relayed how the experience affected him.

“That day will be forever in my mind,” Kunce said.

The dispatcher also rejoiced in the way things turned out.

“Performing CPR to someone in need is not something that happens frequently; I’m very happy to have been able to save a life,” Sarling said.

Later that month, Aug. 18, Apolzer managed to save the life of a stranger, a woman in her 90s, just by being in the right spot at the right time.

Apolzer, a lifeguard at the Sechelt Aquatic Centre, was preparing for a day on the water with her dad and three of her four kids when a woman called out for someone to call 9-1-1 because her mother had gone into cardiac arrest.

For the next seven minutes, Apolzer did compressions on the elder woman while explaining to the daughter how to breathe for her mother.

“We’re taught that it’s important for people to keep making contact with the [patient] while performing CPR,” Apolzer said.

Apolzer continued to encourage the daughter to speak to her parent between breaths. Finally a little noise tipped Apolzer off that the woman was starting to come around.

“I would speak to [the mother] and nothing would happen, [her daughter] would repeat what I had said and the woman would try to respond. It was really beautiful to see that kind of connection,” Apolzer said.

“Even my dad was, ‘wow,’” she remembered.

According to a news release from the service, BCAS attends between 2,400 and 2,800 cardiac arrest calls each year. Only 12 per cent of British Columbians who suffer cardiac arrest survive.

In the release B.C. Health Minister Margaret MacDiarmid said, “You never know when or where a life-threatening emergency might happen — knowing CPR is a vital skill to have so you too can help someone in need, just like Ryan, Karen and Chad did. Thank you, and congratulations to all three.”



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