A cardiac arrest can happen anywhere at any time. Just ask Wayne Willner, owner of Store by the Shore at Douglas Provincial Park, situated on the southeast end of Lake Diefenbaker. On the evening of May 19, while outside the store, Wayne suffered a sudden cardiac arrest.
AED Provincial Parks Group Wayne Willner is pictured with the group that helped save his life. L-R: Amber Gorman (Public Access Defibrillation Program Coordinator), Eric Packet, Alissa Forman, Jill Rettger, Wayne Willner, Anne Willner, Josh Dolinski, Zak Kullman, Dale Hunderb, Mark Janke
Luckily for him, his wife Anne, store employee Jill Rettger, park maintenance employee Josh Dolinski, and friends Eric Packet and Alissa Forman happened to be with him.
The group leapt to action. Rettger called 9-1-1. Anne started compressions, but Packet and Forman quickly took over with the support of Emergency Medical Services (EMS) dispatch; Anne provided respirations; and Dolinski went to retrieve one of the park’s two automated external defibrillators (AED).
“We realized that because we had basic first aid knowledge, the wisdom of the 9-1-1 EMS dispatch and access to an AED, we were able to give Wayne a fighting chance,” said Anne.
“The dispatcher told us where to put our hands and counted every chest compression for us on the phone,” said Forman.
The group put their hearts into ensuring every chest compression was executed and every breath given exactly as dispatch instructed until first responders from the nearby Village of Elbow arrived 25 minutes later. At the same time, Dolinski returned with the AED which first responders used to defibrillate Wayne. They used the device three times before Central Butte EMS arrived a few minutes later to give Wayne yet another shock with the park’s AED, at which point his heart returned to a normal rhythm. Wayne was then transported by STARS air ambulance to Regina General Hospital’s (RGH) Cardiac Care Unit.
At RGH, Wayne had an internal cardiac defibrillator implanted into his chest and was discharged from hospital on June 5. While still under the care of a cardiologist, he continues his recovery with few ill effects and is getting back into the swing of things at home, but at a much slower pace.
Wayne is very lucky. Some of that luck can be attributed to the actions of those first on the scene and how they worked seamlessly to prepare him for transport. Research shows that high quality compressions in a cardiac event can increase survival by 30 per cent. If combined with an AED within two to five minutes of cardiac arrest, survival can increase up to 85 per cent.
Wayne and paramedics Wayne and Anne Willner taking the opportunity to speak with paramedics.
Anne said she is grateful for everyone who was present and helped her husband. “Our outcome was extremely positive. We are fortunate that so many people were able to come to our assistance and for the professionals who took over Wayne’s care; it was a blessing.”
On August 22, 2018 Wayne and Anne were reunited with some of the first responders who helped save his life. They participated in an event at Douglas Provincial Park organized by Regina-area Public Access Defibrillation Program to raise awareness about the importance of AEDs in Saskatchewan’s provincial parks.
Saskatchewan parks, while very beautiful and perfect for a relaxing get-away, can be removed from emergency services and first responders may have to travel a fair distance to reach patients in need. Situations like Wayne’s emphasize why having on-site AEDs and access to medical help via 9-1-1 EMS dispatch at all provincial parks is so valuable.
Zak Kullman, a Central Butte paramedic, appreciated having the opportunity to speak with Wayne – as he rarely meets those he assists – and was thankful Wayne wanted to meet him to say thank you.
“I’m only nine months into my career and to experience an event like this is great. Many people 10 years into their career rarely have the opportunity to meet anyone they helped save, it means a lot,” said Kullman.
Anne considers those who helped her husband members of her family and will be forever grateful to them. Wayne is alive today because of their heroic efforts.