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Family, off-duty paramedics awarded for saving lives in Jordan River, Duncan

Cardiac arrest victims in separate incidents saved by fast-moving bystanders

During a surf trip near Jordan River last May, the Krzymowski family was taking a coffee break in their converted school bus when suddenly they heard shouting.

Someone had collapsed about five feet in front of their vehicle, spurring what turned into life-saving efforts that resulted in the family and an off-duty paramedic being awarded on Tuesday (Feb. 20).

“My husband (Will) and I were the first ones out and he recognized kind of right away what was happening,” Mabel Krzymowski said of her husbands realization the person outside their bus was in cardiac arrest. “So we started chest compressions and mouth to mouth.”

Meanwhile, their 13-year-old daughter Sarah rushed to get help at the nearby Cold Shoulder Cafe, where she shouted out a plea for a cell phone.

At the table closest to her sat paramedic Jared Kowalchuk, who immediately identified himself and took off with Sarah back to the bus. Because of the quick response, and a passerby offering a portable AED they happened to have in their car, a life was saved.

Kowalchuk and the Krzymowski family were honoured on Tuesday in Victoria alongside Conor Williams, another off-duty paramedic who saved a man at soccer practice in Duncan in January 2023.

BC Emergency Health Services awarded both off-duty paramedics with letters of commendation and challenge coins, while the Krzymowski family were given Vital Link Awards.

Williams’ story was similar to the one in Jordan River, with the quick actions of bystanders and the availability of an AED turning a potential tragedy into a triumph.

He had just finished his morning paramedic shift and was looking to unwind by playing soccer at Duncan’s Sherman Road Field. After hearing his name yelled by a coach from an opposing team, William saw his friend Stevan Zoric collapsed on the ground.

The paramedic ran over, immediately switching into work mode, and started CPR upon realizing his friend was in cardiac arrest. Williams normally has to provide the cardiac care once every week or two, but not on a friend.

“Which just made it a little bit more difficult because I’ve known Stevan for the last 14 years,” he said.

Zoric attended the ceremony in Victoria along with family members who expressed their gratitude for Williams and his quick and capable work.

“You saved a life, you saved our son,” Zoric’s mother told the audience at the ceremony. “There are simply not enough words to say how grateful we are.”

In both cases, the positive outcome was possible because all the “vital links” in the chain of survival were present, said Brian Twaites, BCEHS’ public information officer.

“It starts with early recognition of cardiac arrest, followed by early activation of EMS, early bystander CPR, early defibrillation, and then it’s followed by advanced resuscitation,” he told the audience at the ceremony.

Paramedic officials said the two cases show the importance of just a little first aid training. Will Krzymowski had done a CPR course at the insistence of his boss at an architecture firm.

“You can more than double somebody’s chance of survivability with early bystander CPR and the use of an AED,” Twaites said. “Learning CPR truly is a selfless gift.”

READ MORE: Saanich firefighters receive Vital Link Award from paramedics for life-saving CPR

About the Author: Mark Page

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