Luanne and Ken Katz are kayak racers. One Saturday morning in November they were out on the water doing what Luanne calls a workout paddle. "We were completing intervals, we were wearing our heart monitors," she said, "nothing unusual."
They came home to their place on Salt Spring Island, put their gear away and got into the hot tub. It was part of their routine. That’s when Ken said he wasn’t feeling well. He got out and got partially dressed before he collapsed.
Luanne called 9-1-1, and for the next 19 minutes, with the BCEHS dispatcher telling her what to do, performed CPR on her husband. When Salt Spring paramedics Jazzi Griffiths and Sean Davids arrived they had to use the defibrillator four times. Ken wouldn’t gain consciousness for three days, but he was saved, and has since made a miraculous recovery.
When asked how she kept going with the CPR for such a long time, Luanne said, “Adrenaline and love do amazing things. I did what I had to do.”
She also credits the dispatcher who, she said, was calm and clear and “made me count out loud so she could hear.”
Luanne and dispatcher Rachel Wardale had the rare opportunity to meet each other last week. On February 1 Luanne was honoured with a BCEHS Vital Link award for performing cardio-pulmonary resuscitation on Ken. These awards represent our vital link to a patient’s survival.
Luanne had never as much as taken a first aid course when her husband collapsed in cardiac arrest. She and Ken have since taken CPR training and have inspired friends and family around them to do the same. What surprised Luanne in the training, months after the incident, was how intense the actions were and how she could only sustain it for about two minutes.
Reflecting back, Luanne says, “I did what I had to do. I wasn’t going to stop. I think I broke a few ribs.”
Wardale says when she hung up the call with Luanne, “I absolutely did not think he would survive." When she later heard he was alive, “I burst into tears.”
Meeting Luanne was a first for Wardale, who says she’s never had the chance to meet someone after a 9-1-1 call. “This job can be so hard sometimes, but this type of positive event is what keeps us going.”
Wardale now has a picture of her and Luanne and Ken. She plans to keep it pinned up next to her desk to remind her, every day, why she answers the calls of people in distress.