Gordon McDougall is celebrating heart month a little differently this year. In fact, he is celebrating every day a little differently after surviving a heart attack.
“Everyday is a gift now,” he said. “I’ve had days with my grandchildren I never would have had, days with my spouse, my family.”
McDougall was hiking with a friend at Matheson Lake in Metchosin on Sept. 5, 2015, when 20 minutes into his walk, he went into cardiac arrest and collapsed.
“It was life or death,” said McDougall’s wife, Patricia Foster. “There was no cell reception.”
But fate was on his side that day as two Capital Regional District Bylaw officers happened to be in the area and were first on scene to start giving him CPR.
The Metchosin Fire Department was not far behind and once on scene they had to shock him three times. Crews met a B.C. Ambulance team in the parking lot and they were able to revive McDougall, who was said to be conscious and speaking, although he doesn’t remember that. A B.C. Ambulance Advanced Life Support team took over his care and transported him to hospital.
McDougall was in Langford on Valentine’s Day at the B.C. Ambulance Dispatch Centre on Leigh Road, to thank his rescuers and stand with them as they were recognized for their life-saving actions.
“I remember waking up in the hospital and ever since then I’ve wanted to say thank you to these amazing people,” he said. “It’s been pretty emotional.”
B.C. Ambulance Service supports two community awards to recognize significant contributions made by citizens during medical emergencies. The two CRD bylaw officers and eight members of the Metchosin Fire Department were honoured with the Vital Link Award for helping to save McDougall’s life. The award is presented to citizens who are involved in saving a life through successful CPR.
“Every minute that passes without help, a patient’s rate of survival drops by about 10 per cent,” said Colin McTaggart, B.C. Ambulance Service district manager. “No one’s ever woken up from cardiac arrest and complained about the help they received.”
While none could attend the event, McTaggart also recognized the dispatchers who played a key role in the call and many others every day.
He noted that often, dispatchers train callers how to perform CPR over the phone, a step that can make all the difference.
“If you don’t know how to do CPR, please learn … The sooner you can get on the chest, the more outcomes we’ll have like Gordon,” he added, turning to McDougall. “You’re a lucky man.”
It was a sentiment not lost on him, as McDougall is now involved in a clinical trial for stem cell research at the Royal Jubilee Hospital. It’s an opportunity he said he would not have if he was dead and he hopes the research will help save lives. “It’s just been miracle after miracle after miracle.”
After the event, Darren Lam, a member of the advanced life support team that attended the call that day, approached McDougall to say hi. McDougall’s face lit up.
“You’re the only face I remember … It’s just a flash,” he said.
Lam laughed and joked that’s probably because he was the one McDougall was staring at longest while being treated. “It’s good to see you’re in good health,” Lam added. The pair exchanged a handshake and Lam headed back to work.
“There aren’t really words to express how thankful I am,” McDougall said.