Vitally important awards

Joe Smith had never had any major health issues - he was an active man, but one day in late September after finishing pruning the hedges he collapsed.

Smith had been joking with neighbours when he suddenly fell to the ground hitting his head. His wife Judy, quickly rushed over and immediately started CPR.

"I didn't really know what I was doing, I have never done it (CPR) before, but I have seen it on TV," says Judy of the events that day.

The neighbour Smith had been joking with called to his wife, Sandy Hodgins a retired nurse of 35 years to quickly come and help.

"By the time I got downstairs, Judy was cradling Joe's head and was talking to him. I did assess that his airway was clear and he was in fact in arrest. I started compressions and 9-1-1 had already been called," explains Hodgins.

Paramedics Brent Fraser and Diane Dahl were quick to the scene and acknowledged that Hodgins was correctly doing the compressions, so they prepared to defibrillate.

Smith was rushed to Kelowna General Hospital's STEMI Lab for treatment.

Thanks to the efforts by both Smith's wife Judy and Hodgins, Joe survived. The two women are now being recognized for their quick response on what could have been a fatal day.

Both Smith and Hodgins received a Vital Link Award Wednesday morning during a small ceremony at KGH.

Norm Matheson the Okanagan North Superintendent for BC Ambulance says the Vital Link Award is given out to citizens who perform successful CPR on a person before an ambulance can arrive.

"Bystander CPR is critical to patient survival of a sudden cardiac arrest. Bystander CPR and our paramedics use of a defibrillator and the quick response by the STEMI Lab combined to ensure a happy ending to this story."

STEMI stands for ST segment Elevation Myocardial Infarction, a description of a person's heart rhythm that occurs when a coronary artery is blocked by a blood clot.

Paramedics can alert the hospital while they are en route with a patient, to alert staff that there is a candidate for the STEMI Lab who is ready for treatment.

Although Judy Smith is overjoyed to have her husband by her side today, she will never forget the panic that ensued.

"He made a different noise - I don't know what it was and then he was just face down on the asphalt. When I went over to him his eyes were dilated and he wasn't breathing." says Sandy

Judy was relieved to see Hodgins and says she was their saviour that day.

Smith says he is almost fully recovered and is raring to go.

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