Members of a rescue group who helped save the life of hiker Brad Atchison after he suffered a heart attack on Mount Finlayson gather for a photo at a meet and greet last week at the Langford Fire Rescue No. 1 hall. From left (front row) are Kyle Klint and Glen Polson (B.C. Ambulance Service)

Mountain hiker lucky to be alive after heart attack on Mt. Finlayson

Heartfelt thank-you offered to all responders involved in rescue

By all accounts, statistics and odds, Brad Atchison should not have been able to walk into Langford Fire Rescue last week to thank those involved in his heart-stopping rescue on Mt. Finlayson.

The Victoria resident, who turns 68 in July, was hiking the popular peak on May 5 in preparation for a hike to the base camp at Mt. Everest in October. The self-described outdoors person and avid hiker, kayaker, backpacker and diver was about 30 minutes into his hike at a relaxed pace and was climbing up a gully after stopping to take some pictures. Suddenly he realized something didn’t feel right.

“I hit a wall and started to feel dizzy and light-headed and had blurred vision,” Atchison recalled. “I started to head back to the car, but had to sit down because I realized I couldn’t make it … I was fighting to stay conscious – I knew then that I was in deep trouble.”

Fortunately, three hikers came along at that moment and Atchison, who swore off cell phones in 2013, asked them to call for help. Thankfully, they stayed with him after they called 911.

Four-and-a-half hours later, Atchison found himself at Victoria General Hospital fighting for his life.

“I had no chest pains or pain in my left arm until I hit the wall,” he said, adding he didn’t know at the time that he was experiencing a heart attack. That particular kind affects the right coronary artery and is aptly nicknamed The Widow Maker and The Silent Killer because, in a lot of cases, there are no symptoms.

Less than five per cent of people live through that type of attack initially, and only 30 per cent survive if they get to a hospital, Atchison was told. “Eighty per cent of heart attacks happen in the home when someone else is around,” he said. “I really feel like I beat the odds.”

Langford Fire Rescue Capt. Steve Adams, a former paramedic, was one of the first firefighters on the scene about 30 minutes after the call came in at 3:18 p.m.

He could see Atchison was displaying signs and symptoms of a heart attack and began to perform CPR.

Atchison went into cardiac arrest and had to be revived six times while firefighters took him down the trail in a wheeled basket structure.

B.C. Ambulance Service paramedics met the group as they descended and used an automatic external defibrillator to bring Atchison back 13 times while he was on his way down the hill, said Langford Fire Rescue Assistant Chief Chris Aubrey.

“They wound up shocking him a total of 22 times,” he said. “That’s an amazing amount of times. The odds (against) someone coming back in that situation are incredibly high.”

Seeing Atchison walk into the No. 1 fire hall Thursday night to thank his rescuers, less than a month after his ordeal, was nothing short of miraculous, Aubrey added.

“Everyone was totally amazed at how quickly he has recovered. It was a great team effort by the firefighters, B.C. Ambulance personnel, the doctors and nurses at the hospital and everyone who was involved.”

Atchison, who describes himself as in better shape than average for his age, said he ironically had a full medical exam a short time before the episode on Mt. Finlayson, and passed with flying colours.

He is back to feeling the way he did before, despite the fact he spent two days in an induced low-temperature coma to minimize the risk of organ damage.

“Brain damage can often be a problem. I’m lucky there’s been no bad effects and I’ll be able to do everything I did before,” he said.

Atchison has, however, nixed his trip to Everest because of the risks he would incur in a low oxygen environment.

The close call prompted him to underline the importance of taking a cell phone when going off on one’s own.

He also reminded everyone that no matter how fit you are, a complete physical examination does not always catch chronic disease or heart conditions.

“First and foremost, I want to thank everyone involved in the rescue and recovery,” he added. “Everyone worked for a long time in an extremely stressful situation and conditions.

It’s a credit to their determination, professionalism and training. My heartfelt gratitude and kudos to every one of them.”

reporter@goldstreamgazette.com

Just Posted

Hundreds rally in support of horse carriages outside Victoria City Hall

Crowd angry with Coun. Ben Isitt’s motion to ban local horse carriage industry

Rifflandia Festival cancelled for 2019

Early Bird tickets can be refunded at point of purchase, or held and redeemed for 2020

Five-month bridge closure poses early impacts on drivers during rush hour

Construction began Tuesday on the crossing commonly known as the Bay Street bridge

Several hundred SD 62 students team up to clean the shoreline

Effort aimed at keeping Esquimalt and Albert Head Lagoon trash-free

New virgin queen headlines ‘Bee Day’ at Saanich sanctuary

Taste bee spit and check out the hive at Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary this Sunday

VIDEO: Canadian, U.S. Coast guards run oil spill response drills

20 vessels were on the water to practice international response methods

Greater Victoria wanted list for the week of May 21

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

POLL: Were you satisfied with the Game of Thrones series finale?

Millions gathered in front of their televisions Sunday night to watch the… Continue reading

Raptors beat Bucks 105-99 to move within 1 game of NBA Finals

Leonard scores 35 as Toronto takes 3-2 series lead over Milwaukee

B.C. Supreme Court dismisses review around ferry workers’ right to strike

B.C. Ferry and Marine Workers’ Union collective agreement expires November 2020

Young Victoria distillery earns prestigious Scotch awards

Scottish influences range from techniques to ‘kilted tours’ at award-winning business

Municipalities protest after B.C. declares marijuana crops ‘farm use’

UBCM president seeks answers in letter to John Horgan government

CMHC defends mortgage stress test changes amid calls for loosening rules

Uninsured borrowers must now show they could service their mortgage if rates rose two per cent

Brewpub offers ‘boat valet’ for paddlers during Surfrider celebration tonight

Free ‘Surf Formal’ evening features a local art auction, door prizes, live music

Most Read