'We can't thank everybody enough': Firefighters treat colleague for an hour after collapse at barbecue

Steve Sawatzky was at Tinkertown when he went into cardiac arrest

'We can't thank everybody enough': Firefighters treat colleague for an hour after collapse at barbecue 2:20


Around two dozen Winnipeg firefighter paramedics took turns performing CPR on one of their own for nearly an hour after he collapsed at a work barbecue at Tinkertown earlier this month.

Firefighter paramedic Steve Sawatzky was sitting at a picnic table at the amusement park, surrounded by hundreds of his colleagues, when he went into cardiac arrest on July 5.

His wife, Kim Sawatzky, had just stepped away to use the washroom.

"When I came back, the kids were crying and Steve was on the ground receiving CPR," she said.

Steve Sawatzky

Firefighter paramedic Steve Sawatzky is recovering in hospital after going into cardiac arrest on July 5. (Submitted by Kim Sawatzky)

After issues using the on-site automated external defibrillator (AED), his co-workers took turns giving Sawatzky CPR, keeping him alive for nearly an hour, firefighters said, including the time it took for the ambulance to arrive and the trip to the hospital.

"With every passing minute in the ambulance, I grew more and more terrified that that was it, for him and for us," Kim Sawatzky said.

Sawatzky was taken to St. Boniface Hospital, where he is now recovering.

'I do feel it's a miracle'

Kim Sawatzky said the incident came as a shock to the family. Her husband was a fit, healthy person who ate well and exercised almost daily, she said.

On Friday, she said he's healing up well and his family hopes he'll be back home soon.

Steve Sawatzky, Kim Sawatzky

Kim Sawatzky says her family wants to thank all the people who helped her husband, Steve Sawatzky, after he collapsed on July 5. (Submitted by Kim Sawatzky)

Steve doesn't have any memory of the emergency, but his wife said the family is overwhelmed by what his co-workers did for him.

"I mean, it could have happened while we were camping, it could have happened while he was taking the dog for a walk, it could have happened anywhere. But it happened where somebody was able to respond to him and give him exactly what he needed," she said.

"They never gave up on him," she said of his colleagues. "Even when we got to the hospital they didn't give up on him. We were so thankful that they didn't give up on him."

"If it weren't for the fact they were there and didn't give up on him and gave him CPR … we feel that he probably wouldn't be with us today. So I do feel it's a miracle. Absolutely."

Alex Forrest, president of the United Firefighters of Winnipeg, said 20 to 25 people took turns giving him CPR. 

Kim Sawatzky said she's trying to find all their names so she can thank them.

"If we weren't where we were when that happened, it would have been a very different outcome," she said.

"We can't thank everybody enough for what they did for him that day."

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