YMCA Stories

September 24, 2015

Quick Action Restarts Man's Heart

Chuck Prutzman with rescuersCharles “Chuck” Prutzman all but died Aug. 26. His heart and breathing had stopped. His cheeks had gone white. His body had begun to cool.

Just eight days later, he walked into the East Area Family YMCA to thank the many people who helped restart his heart, giving him a new chapter in his life.

“There is heroism all over the place, and we don’t know about it,” said Chuck, 77. “Now I know. Every day is a gift.”

That heroism started with Joe Kinsley, a fellow member at the Y. Joe had gotten to know Chuck as they worked out near each other for about six months. He knew Chuck had recently gotten a pacemaker. And on Aug. 26, seeing Chuck finish an exercise in the Y’s Health and Wellness Center, Joe knew Chuck didn’t look well.

Joe, who is a physician’s assistant, guided Chuck to a seat. When Joe tried to find Chuck’s pulse, he couldn’t.

As Joe guided Chuck to the floor, he signaled for help, then began chest compressions. Erin Coelho, the Y’s Member Wellness Coordinator, saw Joe’s signal. She immediately dispatched three nearby staff members. Lisa Hill called 911. Cameron Hill ran to get the nearest AED (automatic external defibrillator). Jon Raineri sprinted to get the Health and Wellness Director, Jason Patti, and the Aquatics Director, Kim King, who is a certified CPR trainer.

Within seconds, YMCA staff members converged upon Chuck and Joe. Kim gave rescue breaths. Cameron and Jason opened the AED and helped set it up. The machine advised a shock, and Jason administered it.

They waited. Chuck seemed to struggle to breathe – a good sign, but not enough. Kim and Joe resumed CPR. Then, just as Kim was about to give two more rescue breaths, she noticed Chuck had resumed breathing. As Chuck’s color returned and his cold hands grew warm, the staff cheered and Kim and Joe exchanged a high five.

Seconds later, EMTs arrived and continued treatment. As they carried him out on a stretcher, Chuck was giving high fives to friends.

Today, Chuck has a new pacemaker with its own defibrillator. And his heart is full of gratitude.

“I understand I owe you a great big thank you,” Chuck told Joe as they shook hands and hugged at the Y, eight days later.

“It was my pleasure,” Joe said. “God bless you.”

The two were there for a brief ceremony in which Chuck and his wife, Patricia, thanked all those involved in his rescue. Chuck presented Joe with a YMCA medal to honor his special role.

Chuck said his doctor told him he was lucky his heart stopped at the Y. If he hadn’t received CPR so quickly, or if there were no AED on hand, the outcome likely would have been different, the doctor said.

The incident was the first time in its 11 years that the East Area Family YMCA had needed to use one of its two AEDs. Branch leaders later reviewed the incident second by second and found that all staff performed admirably. They also identified ways to improve the Y’s response in future situations.

Chuck said he originally came to the Y five years ago as part of the LIVESTRONG at the YMCA program, which provides free group exercise and support for people recovering from cancer. That program helped him lose weight, regain strength, and make lots of friends.

“In a way, the Y saved my life twice,” Chuck said. “The stories of the people who come here are amazing… They’re survivors.”

Chuck said his doctor has cleared him for walking and light exercise. He said he’s looking forward to getting approval to resume his full exercise routine at the Y.

“You’re either going to rust out or you’re going to wear out,” Chuck said. “I’ve decided I’m going to wear out.”

Filed under Active Adults
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