Cardiac arrest survivor event praises life-saving action on the ice at qplex

At the Quispamsis qplex, a small, metal cabinet containing a portable defibrillator now bears a plaque that says, "This AED helped save a life on October 14, 2017."

Event recognized the bystanders who used a public defibrillator to bring paramedic Mark Carr back to life

The cardiac arrest survivor event held was held to recognize Sam Duff, far left, and other members of the public and first responders who were involved in saving the life of Mark Carr, second from right. (Photo submitted)

At the Quispamsis qplex, a small, metal cabinet containing a portable defibrillator now bears a plaque that says, "This AED helped save a life on October 14, 2017."

That was the night Mark Carr, a paramedic for over 20 years, was playing a game of hockey when he collapsed on the ice and went into cardiac arrest.

Carr, 53, was running late for the church recreation league game, having spent the day picking apples on the Kingston Peninsula.

"I was a bit fatigued, I never thought much of it," he said. "I had a little bit of discomfort in my chest but it was nothing to set the alarms off."

The game had already started when Carr showed up, leaving him no time for a warm up. About eight minutes into the second period, he began to feel a strange sensation.

Flash of light

"I remember the opposing team got ahold of the puck, and of course everyone is chasing the puck handler, and between our blue line and the centre ice was when I remember feeling odd," Carr said.

"I kept thinking, I'm going to pass out, and I just gave my head a bit of a shake, and I remember seeing a white flash. And moments later,  I remember waking up flat on my back with a huge spectacle of people gathered around.

"I remember hearing the crowd say, 'You've got one shock off,' and the moment I heard that, I knew what happened," he said.

'A quick thing'

Sam Duff, a volunteer firefighter from Saint John, was early for the game.

It's become second nature for the first responder to take note of the defibrillators mounted in public spaces. Near the dressing rooms, an automated external defibrillator, or AED, caught his eye before he got on the ice.

That critical detail helped in the fast response that saved Carr's life.

"We immediately started taking his gear off and doing chest compressions, and we noticed we needed the AED because he was going into cardiac arrest," Duff said.

"Someone said they they didn't know where it was. Well, I know exactly where it is. It's one of those knacks you have, so it was a quick thing."

Mary Lou Price, co-ordinator of the public access defibrillator program, says everyone at the Qplex that night played 'an important part in the chain of survival.' (Brian Chisholm/CBC)

Four months later, the pair were back at the qplex with the other bystanders and first-responders who came to Carr's aid that night.

The cardiac arrest survivor event, hosted by Ambulance New Brunswick, recognized the teammates for their quick action.

"Certainly, they play such an important part in the chain of survival," said Mary-Lou Price, provincial co-ordinator of the public access defibrillation program for Medavie Health Services-Ambulance New Brunswick.

"If any link was missing, the outcome may not have been as positive as it was in Mark's case."

Carr was also presented with the ECG rhythm strip from the AED device.

"They printed off the strip where it shows the shock advised, and was converted back to a normal rhythm. And they converted it to a picture frame," he said.

Mementos from the event included Mark Carr's ECG rhythm strip from the AED device, and a plaque on the case that says: 'This AED helped save a life.' (Photo submitted)

"It will be on my wall at home, and I'll see that every day. I will just think, that allowed me to be alive, to be home with my family. I'm a very fortunate person."

There are 656 registered public defibrillators registered in New Brunswick. They're placed in shopping malls, schools, community centres, pools, arenas, churches and other public buildings.

AEDs apply an electric shock to the heart that jolts it back into action. The faster a heart can be restarted, the greater the chances of survival.

14 people saved

According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, most cardiac arrests happen at home or in a public space, but the chance of survival is only one in 10 if it happens outside a hospital.

For every minute a defibrillator is delayed getting to a patient's side, the chances of survival decrease by 10 per cent, Price said.

However, the chances of survival double if an AED is used within the first few minutes of cardiac arrest.

Bystanders using public defibrillators have saved 14 people in New Brunswick since 2014. 

About the Author

Sarah Trainor

Reporter

Sarah Trainor is a reporter, and news reader for Information Morning Saint John. She has worked for the CBC since 2005.