In a matter of mere minutes, Northshore YMCA staffers took action that saved a man’s life Monday.
The man, a Y member who was working out on the elliptical machine in the cardio room, collapsed in full cardiac arrest around 5:30 p.m., EMT responders later told Melissa Osterloo, Y member engagement director.
After the man collapsed, another member triggered the Y’s alarm system, which first alerted Osterloo, 33, and other staff members to the emergency situation in the cardio room.
“At first we thought someone was using an emergency exit,” she said.
Jodi Milner, a Y fitness instructor who was in the cardio room working out on her day off, heard someone behind her asking the man who had collapsed if he was OK. She quickly realized something was wrong and ran into the hall and yelled “Code 100,” which means someone is down and something serious is happening: grab the automatic external defibrillator, or AED.
Milner, 51, ran back to the cardio room where someone had the collapsed man elevated, as they thought the man was choking.
Milner recalls saying that she didn’t think the man was choking and had him laid down flat on his back.
“We need to do CPR,” Milner remembers saying to the room.
No one moved. She said everyone gave her a “deer in headlights” look.
“Wait a minute. I know CPR,” she remembers thinking. So she immediately began chest compressions.
Osterloo, who was at the front of the building, told another staff member to call 9-1-1 after she heard “Code 100.” Osterloo, who was in close proximity to the the AED, grabbed the portable device and ran down the hallway to the cardio room.
Y members directed her to the back of the room along the wall where Milner was doing chest compressions on the man.
“His face was completely purple,” Osterloo said. “He was not breathing. He did not have a pulse. … It hit me that this guy, if we don’t do something, is going to die or is already dead.”
Osterloo began setting up the AED.
“I just kept thinking, ‘I need to get these pads on him,’” she said.
The AED assessed the man and said aloud, “Shock advised.” Osterloo and Milner made sure the man was clear of anyone touching him and then Osterloo pressed the “shock” button.
“I expected a more physical response after we shocked him,” Osterloo said. “He was still not breathing. His face was really deep purple. His tongue was in the back of his mouth.”
Osterloo resumed chest compressions.
“Eventually, I think I was around 50 (compressions), he started to tense up,” she said. “I thought he was possibly going to have a seizure, but it was at that point he was starting to come around.”
Milner said another Y member was taking the man’s pulse.
“‘He’s got a pulse! He’s coming back,’” Milner remembers the member saying.
The man, dazed and confused, was not aware of why he was on the ground or why people were surrounding him, Osterloo said.
“He just totally had no clue what had just happened,” she said.
After the man came around, a doctor — who was a Y member who had just arrived to work out — identified himself and began to assess the man. Shortly thereafter, the EMTs arrived and relieved Osterloo and Milner.
“That was a traumatic experience for me,” Osterloo said. “I needed to collect myself.”
Milner had a different reaction.
“I was doing the happy dance,” she said. “I literally watched him come back to life.”
Osterloo said an EMT later told her that they did the right thing.
“‘This guy was dead and you saved him,’” Osterloo recalled the EMT telling her.
Osterloo, who when recalling Monday’s events got a little chocked up, said it was an “overwhelming experience,” which training did not prepare her for.
Osterloo, who has been working for the Y in other areas of the county for five or six years, has been with Northshore for one month. She and Milner both have gone through CPR training with the Y, but neither one of them has ever before had to rely on that training in a real-life scenario.
“In CPR class, it’s super important and we require it of all of our staff, and I’ve gone through it numerous times, but it’s so different when you’re practicing it on a real person,” Osterloo said.
She said she is thankful for her training, as it gave her the confidence to help the Y member who collapsed Monday.
“The emotional side is a lot more powerful than I’ve ever considered in training,” she said.
The Y does have an employee assistance program that can provide counseling for Y staffers.
Milner, whose husband is a Seattle firefighter, thinks she was emotionally better prepared for the event. Not only does she have her husband’s stories to prepare her, but on a recent trip to Italy she witnessed a man collapse of cardiac arrest. She said her husband performed CPR on the man for 10 or 15 minutes before the man was pronounced dead.
With this sad experience in her mind, Milner was overjoyed that the incident at Northshore ended so differently.
“Woo hoo! He’s alive,” Milner said. “Oh my god. Praise God! I was just stoked. I was so excited. What is there not to celebrate? This guy is breathing again.”
The man who Osterloo and Milner saved was transported to the hospital afterward. Milner said he was admitted to open heart surgery Wednesday.
Northshore YMCA is located at 11811 N.E. 195th St. in Bothell. It is part of the YMCA of Greater Seattle.