British Columbia

Teachers honoured for saving student in cardiac arrest

Two Okanagan teachers were honoured by B.C. Emergency Health Services in Oliver on Tuesday, for helping save the life of a student who went into cardiac arrest during gym class about a month ago.

'The AED was paramount in the success of this'

B.C. Emergency Health Services unit chief, John Warren, awards teachers Steve Podomorow and Mike Russo, with the Vital Link Award for performing CPR and helping save the life of a 13-year-old student at their school. (Mark Brett)

Two Okanagan teachers were honoured by B.C. Emergency Health Services in Oliver on Tuesday for helping save the life of a student who went into cardiac arrest during gym class about a month ago. 

South Okanagan Secondary School teachers Steve Podomorow and Mike Russo resuscitated 13-year-old, Dilshaan Dhaliwal, using CPR and an automated external defibrillator or AED. 

"[The AED] gave him the best chance he could have possibly had. So, the AED was paramount in the success of this," said Russo.

Quick action

During a joint gym class Jan. 30 with Russo's Grade 8 class and Podomorow 's senior class, Dhaliwal collapsed after a 12 minute run, Podomorow told Daybreak South host Chris Walker. 

The Grade 8 student had just handed in his running results to Russo and was walking past Podomorow, when he went into cardiac arrest.

"I'm the first aid person at the school and checked him out quickly, got 911 on the phone and started the CPR process," said Russo.

Oliver student Dilshaan Dhaliwal was flown to B.C. Children's Hospital in Vancouver for treatment after going into sudden cardiac arrest in gym class at school. (BC Emergency Health Services)

Podomorow said the 911 dispatcher stayed on the line with them the entire time, helping them throughout the process.

"We had the AED on and starting CPR probably within two to three minutes," said Russo.

He estimates that he performed CPR for about eight or nine minutes. Dhaliwal was later flown to the B.C. Children's Hospital for treatment. 


"We were very fortunate to have the AED really close by," said Podomorow. He said the easy accessibility to the defibrillator helped them and the paramedics use it quickly. 

Russo said he believes the AED, in addition to CPR, saved Dhaliwal's life. 

"He was in a shockable rhythm and so when you have the AED there, we can hopefully reset the heart, and it was able to do that," said Russo.

Many schools across the Okanagan have AEDs, but not all do.

The AED at South Okanagan Secondary School had been donated by the Advanced Coronary Treatment Foundation.

The North Okanagan-Shuswap School District announced last week that it would be adding defibrillators to all of its schools over the next three years.


"[The incident] was definitely somewhat alarming, especially for me, but I think we work well together," said Podomorow.

Russo, who is also a volunteer fireman, and Podomorow were awarded the Vital Link Award by B.C. Emergency Health Services for their quick actions.   

Meanwhile, Podomorow said Dhaliwal has been recovering at home but will have to undergo another procedure. 

"We're very excited for his return and hope to see him around here soon," said Podomorow.

with files from Daybreak South


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