Rescuers restart man's heart after collapse on Yellowknife squash court

Terry Gray says he owes his life to the quick actions of people who helped him after his heart stopped while playing squash earlier this month.

'Without those people around I might not be here,' says Terry Gray

Avid squash player Terry Gray, 48, collapsed at Yellowknife's Racquet Club on May 12. Three employees of the club, including Ozzie Vallejos, in red, performed CPR and restarted his heart using an automated external defibrillator. He's now recovering in an Edmonton hospital. (Jeff Hipfner/Yellowknife Racquet Club)

A Yellowknife man whose heart stopped while he was playing squash earlier this month says he owes his life to the people who rallied to help him. 

Terry Gray, 48, was playing squash at The Yellowknife Racquet Club with his friend Brooke Harker on May 12 when he collapsed.

"My heart just went into a bad rhythm and then it basically just put me into cardiac arrest," he said over the phone from an Edmonton hospital where he's currently recovering.

Harker says he began giving Gray CPR and yelled for help.

That's when Racquet Club employees Ozzie Vallejos, Jeff Hipfner and Devin Madsen came on the scene.

"I was on the charter court playing when one of the juniors from upstairs came down and got me and said Terry was down," Vallejos said.

'You've got to act now' 

Someone grabbed an automated external defibrillator, or AED, from another room and hooked up the paddles to Gray's chest.

"Just the colour of his skin was pretty real enough and you just know that nothing's moving like blood flow or anything," Madsen said.

"It's like you've got to act now or no one's going to do anything else. You're just right there. If we don't do anything who knows what's going to be the end result."

Vallejos gave Gray mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. As Hipfner and Madsen watched, the AED gave him a shock. 

Kristin Richardson, a nurse practitioner with Public Health who was at the gym, rushed to the scene. After assessing the crisis, she alerted staff to call an ambulance, then provided CPR until paramedics arrived.

"You could see the colour coming back to his face. It wasn't so blue," Madsen said.

"You could see his diaphragm trying to move in and out. He was making noises but he was definitely not coming to."

Tests show his heart is healthy 

Gray was rushed to Stanton Territorial Hospital where he was put in an induced coma. Three days later he was medevaced to Edmonton's Royal Alexandra Hospital where he underwent a series of tests, all of which show his heart is healthy.

Gray now has an internal defibrillator in his heart that will keep it beating if he ever goes back into cardiac arrest.

He says he owes his life to those who helped him when he collapsed.

"I've got a lot to say to all of them and I haven't quite figured out how I'm going to actually repay them for any of this. I think it's impossible.

"Without those people around I might not be here."


  • This story has been updated from its original version to include more information on who was involved in the rescue.
    May 26, 2016 9:18 AM CT