Calgary cardiac arrest survivor thanks paramedics for saving his life

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A Calgary man says without the help of paramedics, he would not be alive today.

On April 27, 2020, Brian Sander, now 67, was at his office at National Neon in southeast Calgary with his two sons.

“We just came back from picking up some smoothies. Apparently, I got up and took two steps and checked out. I had suffered sudden cardiac arrest, and my heart stopped,” said Sander.

In fact, Sander said his heart stopped for 11 minutes. Fortunately, people around him knew CPR and jumped into action, and members of the Calgary Fire Department were quickly on the scene with a defibrillator. Calgary EMS paramedics performed life-saving interventions while transporting him to hospital.

“Good bystander CPR usually gives us the best outcomes,” said Amanda Myers, the advanced care paramedic who treated Sander that day with her partner Tyler Sullivan.

“Brian had a pulse when we arrived, so we were able to stabilize him and take him to the Foothills Medical Centre.”

Brian has no memory of what happened that day and doesn’t know what lead up to the sudden cardiac arrest.

“I feel like I live a healthy lifestyle. Why it happened to me, I don’t know,” Sander said.

One thing he does know: he’s grateful for the work of first responders.

“Had they not been there on a timely basis and done their job, I would not be here,” Sander said.

On Sunday, Sander was reunited with the two advanced care paramedics who helped save his life.

He said it’s satisfying to finally say thank you in person.

“My second chance happened because of these two. Things can turn on a dime. We don’t worry about our mortality until it’s in your face, but for me, the experience has taught me that our existence is very fickle,” Sander said.

“Our life can be pulled out from under us without any warning whatsoever. Not too many people get to have a second chance.”

As for Myers and Sullivan, they say it’s what they are trained to do as paramedics. But what’s special for both of them is that Sander is the first patient they’ve been able to meet after recovery.

“It’s rewarding and emotional to get to see Brian today and just hear how much what we do makes an impact on people in the community. It’s a nice reminder. We forget because it’s just what we do every day,” Myers said.

Around 35,000 cardiac arrests occur in Canada each year, according to the Heart and Stroke Foundation, and few people survive an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest.

“When I saw an ambulance in the past, it was a nuisance. I had to pull over to make room for a fire truck or an ambulance to get by. I don’t look at things the same anymore. I know they are often going to life and death situations and they really are heroes,” Sander said.

May 23 to 29 marks National Paramedic Services Week. Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro issued a statement on Sunday saying paramedics play a key role in the province’s COVID-19 response.

“Paramedics are providing testing and vaccinations while continuing to deliver essential care to Albertans at a time of unprecedented risk to themselves and their families,” he said.

“This year, I know many paramedics are celebrating (National Paramedic Services Week) by sharing photos and stories on social media, and they would welcome likes, shares and personal comments from Albertans in appreciation and support.”

Shandro said Albertans can also support paramedics by following public health guidelines and getting vaccinated.

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