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NOTL lifeguard saves soccer player

Penny Coles

NOTL lifeguard Stavros Lalos used CPR and a defibrillator to save a 57-year-old man who collapsed on the soccer field behind Memorial Pool Friday evening. The man is at home recovering. Penny Coles/Niagara Advance

NOTL lifeguard Stavros Lalos used CPR and a defibrillator to save a 57-year-old man who collapsed on the soccer field behind Memorial Pool Friday evening. The man is at home recovering. Penny Coles/Niagara Advance

Niagara Advance Memorial Pool in Niagara-on-the-Lake was closed Friday evening when a local 57-year-old man collapsed and stopped breathing on the soccer field behind the pool.

Any other evening pool supervisor Stavros Lalos would have been long gone, but he was still working around 10 p.m. to set up lane ropes for a swim meet Saturday morning when a couple of young swimmers, who had stopped to watch a soccer game before heading home after staying to help Lalos, came running in to say “a man is dying.” Lalos, a 19-year-old in his fourth year of life-guarding for the town, said he took a quick look outside, saw a man down and a crowd gathered around in a “chaotic” situation, grabbed the AED (automated external defibrillator) from it’s case on the wall and rushed out.

The man had no pulse and was already turning blue, Lalos said.

“He was not breathing. I started CPR, while a Niagara-on-the-Lake firefighter (playing for the opposing team) unpacked the AED and started it. It was pretty much chaos. Four people were calling 911, and I was screaming for someone to go and watch for the ambulance and direct it.”

The AED, which was placed in the pool building by Heart Niagara as part of an initiative to have defibrillators in public places, gives instructions to guide its use, and lifeguards are also trained in CPR, but the most important factor in an emergency situation “is to stay calm. That can be difficult - a lot of people panic.”

But Lalos is going into his third year of medical school in the fall - he’s a student at the Ireland Royal College of Surgeons, and he hopes to be an emergency room doctor. He is getting clinical training in the St. Catharines hospital emergency room two days a week, and although he has never given CPR in an emergency situation, he has witnessed it being applied many times, he said.

He also had a fellow student visiting him at the pool Friday evening, who helped take turns doing compressions while they waited for the paramedics to arrive.

The instructions given by the AED, which checks for a pulse, advised a shock be given, and then after another 30 seconds of compressions, advised a second shock, which meant the man was still not breathing, said Lalos.

But after the second shock his pulse began to rise, and although it was not steady it was strong, and the man began to get his colour back.

When the firefighters, police and paramedics arrived, he was breathing, and he was taken to hospital. By Monday he was home recovering, but requiring some follow-up.

“It was just a fluke I was here,” Lalos said. “I’d normally have locked up by then. Everything just worked out perfectly. He was in the right place at the right time.”

Kevin Turcotte, manager of parks and recreation for the town, says all public buildings now have AEDs in them, although it was just two years ago when Heart Niagara, working with a fundraising group of paramedics called the Pedal Angels, were placing the life-saving machines in public places to make NOTL a “heart-safe” community and training members of the public to use them.

Lalos says although at the beginning the other soccers players on the Serbian team and those watching the Peninsula Veterans Soccer League game were very upset, some crying, when the man was taken away by ambulance, breathing again, “everyone was hugging us and very appreciative and supportive of what we’d done.”

He said in the pressure of the moment, “instincts kick in,” and it helped that the AED instructions guided the process. The 911 dispatcher also listens in, he said.

By Monday morning, Lalos was back at the pool, teaching one of his regular life-guarding classes, including how to give CPR.

It’s rare for a lifeguard to have to use it, he added.

“This is my first time with a major situation. I’m just glad it ended the way it did. And it 100 per cent solidified my intention to be an emergency room doctor. I know it sounds weird but from the time I was little I’ve wanted to help in emergency situations.”

The man who collapsed said Monday evening he didn't want his name used, but he does want the lifeguard and everyone involved to know he is very grateful for all they did to save his life.

 

 



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