British Columbia

Running on 'adrenaline and love': B.C. woman saves husband's life with 20 minutes of CPR

A Salt Spring Island woman was recently honoured with an award for saving her husband’s life.

'The best reward for me is having Ken around and having more time'

Luanne Katz, centre, holds her B.C. Emergency Health Services Vital Link certificate and award for performing life-saving CPR on her husband Ken Katz, second from right. She was joined at the award ceremony by paramedics and the dispatcher, Rachel Wardale, far left, who took her 911 call. (BC Emergency Health Services)

A distraught wife who saved her husband's life with 20 exhausting minutes of chest compressions was honoured last week with a provincial award. 

B.C. Emergency Health Services presented Luanne Katz of Salt Spring Island a Vital Link certificate after she kept her husband Ken alive with the help of a 911 dispatcher when he collapsed with cardiac arrest at their home in November. 

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The active couple are kayak racers who had just come in from a paddle and hopped in the hot tub to warm up. Shortly after they got out, 64-year-old Ken said he wasn't feeling well.

"He goes down on his knees and next thing I know he's collapsed. I pretty quickly knew that he wasn't kidding," Katz, 59, told All Points West guest host Khalil Akhtar.

Despite not having any first aid training she managed to perform CPR —  cardiopulmonary resuscitation — with the help of 911 dispatcher Rachel Wardale.

"She was quite upset and she said that her and her husband had... collapsed, then the call was disconnected. So I called her back and at that point it became apparent that he wasn't breathing, so we needed to proceed with CPR," said Wardale, who stayed on the line with Katz to coach her with the timing of the compressions.

"I said, 'We're in this together... this is going to keep him going until help arrives.' All those positive thoughts and encouragement for her."

"Adrenaline and love really kept me going there," said Katz.

 "I was getting tired. I recall at some point, probably about 15 minutes in, I said to Rachel, 'Where are they?'

"I didn't know how much I could keep going," said Katz, adding that she feared Ken would suffer brain damage as the clock ticked on.

 And 19 long minutes later, paramedics arrived to take over. Ken has made a "miraculous" recovery according to nurses who assisted the couple at Royal Jubilee Hospital in Victoria and attribute that to his strong cardiovascular health.

"If he hadn't been that healthy, it would've been a much bigger hill to climb," Katz said.

Now trained in first aid and CPR, Katz has inspired many of her friends to take life-saving courses and improve their heart health.

"The best reward for me is having Ken around and having more time. We're making use of every minute of it."

Wardale said it's rare in her position to meet the people who call in for assistance, but she was overjoyed to meet the woman she spent 20 stressful minutes with and the man she saved.

"When I heard that he did survive I just burst into tears and I was so excited... It was emotional and encouraging. This job can be so hard sometimes, but this type of positive event is what keeps us going."

To hear the full interview listen to audio below:

With files from All Points West