Health & Safety Institute Blog

February 21, 2014

Fitness Center Team Saves Patron with CPR, AED

A big thanks to Carla Zenner, owner of the Carla Zenner Training Center for sharing the following inspiring rescue story with us. Read on to see how affiliate owner Hung Nguyen of Crossfit Dragonfire gym and his staff and customers used MEDIC First Aid training to save a longtime gym patron. 

Calling it the “scariest ordeal of our lives,” Hung won’t ever forget January 28, 2014, a night when patron Kelli Lewis came in to do one of her usual workouts.

The Tools of CrossFit

That Kelli was even at the gym that night was a stroke of luck. Michele Nguyen, co-owner of the gym, had asked Kelli to give the Nguyen’s son a ride to the gym when she came in. Kelli had wavered on whether or not to work out that evening, but the request to help her friends motivated her to head over to Crossfit.

The diminutive 34-year-old chose to work on the rope climb apparatus. The first climb to the top was easy. After a first pull on her second round, she carefully lowered herself back to the ground.

Something was wrong. Light-headedness and dizziness overtook her. She collapsed to the mat, her breathing irregular.

Michele, along with several gym patrons, including a dental assistant, a police officer, and a student at Western Chiropractic School, rushed to Kelli’s side. Michele took charge, checking for breathing and calling for someone to contact 911. In Hung’s words, “Kelli was fading fast; she started convulsing, and her skin color turned pale. No one knew what was causing this. The symptoms came on fast….Kelli's breathing pattern changed, she started a slow, gasping breathing.”

The chiropractic student began administering chest compressions. Michele grabbed the gym’s automated external defibrillator (AED) and the three gym patrons worked together to place the pads correctly on Kelli’s chest. Hung reports that everyone had a role to play, “Other patrons were on their cell phones with 911, another ran outside to flag down the fire and paramedic crew, while yet another had gone to find a blanket to throw over Kelli. One held Kelli's hand to try and comfort her. Several dropped to their knees, bowed their heads and started praying.”

Soon Kelli stopped breathing entirely.

In Hung’s words again:

“Seconds seemed to turn into minutes. The gym went silent, the only thing heard was an automated voice that echoed through the gym. ‘Analyzing, analyzing....shock advised... stand clear!’ A jolt of electricity shot though Kelli's body. Her body arched off the mat, and then she laid there flat on her back. ‘Analyzing, analyzing…’ continued to echo through the gym. No one dared to move…

Slowly life returned back to Kelli's body; her eyes were clear, color returned to her face, and she slowly started a steady breathing pattern. Several minutes later, the fire and paramedic crew came rushing through the door and took over. All this happened in about 6-7 minutes.”

Kelli Lewis survived the ordeal and now has a defibrillator implanted in her chest.

The gym’s AED, purchased four years ago, was definitely one of the “stars” of this event. As Hung Nguyen explains,

“Back when this gym was first starting out in a three-car garage, paying out $1,100.00 for a machine that may never be used was a hard decision to make. That money could have purchased a lot of new equipment. We decided to invest in our little community and I'm glad we did. [Kelli’s] doctor told her that if we did not have the AED, she would have died that night… We had the AED hooked up to Kelli within minutes of her going down. I believe every gym needs an AED regardless of their size and it must be accessible to anyone…. I hope this story inspires affiliate owners out there to invest in this little miracle lifesaving box.”

And he offers some great tips for any other gym owners and managers who already have an AED onsite:

“Make sure your trainers and members know where the AEDs are located. Few members in our gym knew we even had an AED. Some thought it was a first aid kit.

Have all [fitness staff] trained in CPR/AED and implement procedures and protocols [for responding to an emergency].

We now have a CPR/AED training scheduled for any members interested and we plan on doing this annually.”

No one could wrap up today’s post better than a witness to the scene, so we’ll give the last words to owner Nguyen as well:

“So many things went right for [Kelli] that night. The people, place, the equipment. I get choked up every time I think what could have happened if she didn't show up that day…[This] Crossfit community came together to save Kelli's life.”

All of us at HSI are so glad you did!

Need help implementing an AED program in your place of business? Let us help! Download our Five Keys to AED Success e-book and give us a call at 800.447.3177 to discuss your location’s needs.

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