A Choiceland couple is speaking out about the importance of first responders after a cardiac arrest incident while they were at their cottage in Candle Lake.

Glen Kelsey started feeling unwell on the evening of Jan. 16 after a normal day of snowshoeing and ice fishing with his wife, Connie. When he started heavily sweating and holding his chest, Connie called 911.

Within minutes, volunteer first responder Debbie Hunter arrived. Louise Tarasiuk and Karen Mack, also first responders in Candle Lake, came shortly after. They all took training in order to provide initial care to patients before Parkland Ambulance paramedics coming from Prince Albert arrived.

“I remember pacing a little and going in and out of the room, but I really don’t remember a whole lot,” said Connie.

The first responders were on scene when Glen’s heart went into a “chaotic response” and he went unconscious.

They hooked Glen up to an Automatic External Defibrillator (AED) machine, which shocks the heart to restore a regular heartbeat. Glen woke up after the shock, and paramedics were able to treat him from there once they arrived, transferring him to Prince Albert and then Saskatoon.

“Having the equipment and having the knowledge and taking the training to be able to do that as volunteers is immensely appreciated by everyone in the community. There’s no doubt about that,” said Glen to Hunter, Tarasiuk and Mack.

“He would not be here if it wasn’t for you,” said Connie.

Glen said he remembers seeing Hunter come in and then nothing until he was on the stretcher speaking with a paramedic.

“A near death experience is not something that you can take very lightly,” he said.

Glen said he felt “like nothing had happened” by the next morning.

Mack explained that sometimes these situations can be traumatic and often first responders in remote communities such as Candle Lake have patients they know personally.

“Many times before I was a first responder, people would need help and I wouldn’t really know what to do,” she said.

“I think that’s probably why I became a first responder, because there’s a need for us in communities that are so far away from paramedics and the hospital and doctors.”

Candle Lake is about an hour away from Prince Albert.

Lyle Karasiuk, director of public affairs at Parkland Ambulance, said for every minute a person isn’t breathing, their chance of survival decreases by 10 per cent — meaning someone likely won’t survive after eight to 10 minutes, he said. However, Karasiuk said it depends on a variety of factors.

“You and I might be able to hold our breath for maybe a minute, if we’re lucky. Think about someone who’s not breathing for two, five, 10, 20 minutes, and what that means to the people and the families and the care that they need. This is where first responders come in,” he said.

Glen, Connie and the three first responders spoke about all of the factors that allowed Glen to recover from the cardiac arrest in support of Heart Month, which runs throughout February.