‘Black-belt heroes’ credited with saving man’s life

Phil Nguyen calls them black-belt heroes. He credits, in part, the taekwondo training of a group of men at a Kanata martial arts academy with their ability to act quickly, calmly and effectively on Saturday to save a life.

“They had the presence of mind to understand the gravity of the situation, the self-control to stay calm and the courage and strength to take action. To me, they are black-belt heroes.”

Saturday was to have been a day of celebration at the Black Belt Excellence: Kanata Martial Arts Academy run by Nguyen, known as Master Phil. Close to 100 members of the dojang and their families were gathered to watch members test for black belts and to celebrate. But something went seriously wrong during one of those tests.

Robert Pizzuto was sparring with a 51-year-old partner. Both men were testing for their second-degree black belts.

Suddenly, his sparring partner started to drop. Pizzuto said he thought the man was fainting, so he helped him down to the ground. But when he noticed the man’s ear lobe was turning blue, he knew he wasn’t breathing and he began chest compressions while another member of the academy checked his breathing. Pizzuto, who works at Statistics Canada, had taken CPR training through work.

Meanwhile, another member of the academy called 911 and was told there was a defibrillator nearby. Another man ran, barefoot, across the parking lot to retrieve the defibrillator from a nearby community centre. Marko Strojanovski and Steven Duford made up the other half of the “black-belt heroes” group.

By the time paramedics were loading the patient into an ambulance, he was arguing with them that he was fine and didn’t need to go to the hospital. He underwent a procedure at the Heart Institute on Saturday night and is now recovering.

After the ambulance left, Nguyen said he turned to Steven Leu, operations superintendent with the Ottawa Paramedics Service, and said: “This was supposed to be a day of celebration.” Nguyen said he was feeling despondent. But Leu replied: “It is a day of celebration. When we arrive at these sites, the outcome is not always positive. You guys did exactly what you had to do.”

Leu calls the incident a textbook case of the “chain of survival” working properly.”This is the way the system is supposed to work.”

By the time paramedics arrived, the man who had collapsed in front of a crowd at the dojang was breathing and starting to regain consciousness.

Paramedics originally reported that he had suffered from cardiac arrest, which has a survival rate of only five per cent outside the hospital. Nguyen said Sunday he had been told he had a heart attack.

Still, bystander intervention, training and access to defibrillators increases survival rates significantly.

Saturday’s incident was an excellent illustration of what happens when the key elements of what is known as the chain of survival work, said Leu. They include: early notification of 911, early bystander CPR, early defibrillation and early paramedic care.

“It took a village to save a man’s life,” said Nguyen.

On Sunday, some of those involved in the rescue gathered at the martial arts academy. Many were still shaken.

During the rescue, Nguyen said, some of the bystanders were in tears. He and the rescuers had to stay calm. But on Sunday morning, he said, he cried when he thought about how close it had been.

“I now know what a hero is. It is someone who is extremely scared, but still does what has to be done. You don’t feel like heroes — none of us does. We were scared, and still feel very vulnerable and very grateful.”

Pizzuto, meanwhile, said he has a new appreciation for the importance of portable automated external defibrillators, and thinks every gym should have one. He said he will push for the dojang to get one “even if I have to raise the funds myself.”

The City of Ottawa maintains a database of publicly accessible defibrillators. When 911 receives a call about a cardiac emergency, the closest available defibrillator is identified. The public can register their defibrillators on the database at 613-580-2424 ext. 22454.

Please remember that this article is taken from America and in Australia our Emergency services number is 000. It is very common in society now that people are attending a first aid course for work. We have found that a majority of our students are attending our first aid course due to work. We love having all students attend and our first aid course and we are proud to be owned and operated in Canberra. We look forward to you booking it to one of our first aid course shortly.

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