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Lessons learned and gratitude after a near-death experience

It was just a month ago that 67-year-old Brad Atchison suffered a cardiac arrest while hiking alone but thanks to BC Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) paramedics and Langford first responders, his comeback has been remarkably swift. 
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On June 2, 2016, Brad and his wife Cheryl stopped by the Langford Fire Hall to personally thank some of the emergency responders who helped save his life.  By speaking with the responding firefighters and BCEHS advanced care paramedics who answered the call, Brad was able to piece together parts of that fateful afternoon and most importantly, look his rescuers in the eyes and say thank you. ​

“There are not enough words to express how thankful I am,” Atchison said.  “The fact that I’m here today is a testament to your professionalism, fitness, perseverance, knowledge and the application of that knowledge.  I’m just so grateful.” 

Atchison didn’t have a cellphone with him during his solo hike on Mount Finlayson in Goldstream National Park last May 5th. He was preparing for a Mount Everest Base Camp hike planned for October when suddenly he felt very dizzy and couldn’t see straight. Luckily, some hikers came up the hill at that moment and one of them called 9-1-1. 

Atchison was suffering a heart attack with a 100 per cent occluded right coronary artery. This type of heart attack is also known as the Silent Killer because sufferers are usually asymptomatic before it strikes. Atchison, who describes himself as an outdoorsman, had recently completed a medical examination and passed without any concerns noted.  

Over the next three and a half hours, firefighters and paramedics worked together to save Atchison. He had no vital signs 13 times and was shocked 22 times in total, by first responders, paramedics and hospital staff.  He spent five days in the hospital, two of them in an induced coma, to minimize the chance of brain damage or organ failure.  Every day since he was discharged, Atchison has been getting stronger, walking an average of 60 minutes per day.  

“His recovery is pretty remarkable and it’s great to hear he’s doing so well,” said advanced care paramedic Kyle Klint. “I’m just glad we were able to help and he can spend more time with his family.” 

In B.C., only 14 per cent of patients who suffer an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest survive. In fact, the majority of the responders who cared for him didn’t think he was going to make it. 

“Most of the time patients who do recover from something this severe, suffer some sort of impairment,” said advanced care paramedic Glen Polson. “It’s pretty great to see him standing here and talking to people.  This doesn’t happen often.”  

Atchison said he learned some valuable lessons from this near-death experience including the importance of carrying a cell phone when hiking, that regular medical exams often do not catch chronic disease or heart conditions and that the heroic efforts emergency responders put forward occur every day in B.C. 

“I have no ill-effects from the incident besides a few blank spots, no brain damage,” Atchison said.  “I know I am very lucky and just wanted to say thank you.” 

BCEHS; Patient story; local heroes
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