Last Friday was a typical summer day at the Y. Swimmers swam; cyclists cycled; basketball players basketballed.
Suddenly, around noon, a player in one of those pickup hoops games dropped to the floor.
He was in full cardiac arrest.
A fellow player — the guest of a member, who is a nurse — began chest compressions. Others ran for help.
Michael Friedman — a health and wellness specialist in the fitness center — was standing in the doorway. Like every Y staffer — from the CEO on down — he’s been trained and regularly re-certified in both CPR and AED (automated external defibrillator) use.
Michael grabbed the nearest AED unit — there are 3; this one was by the membership desk — and ran to the gym.
Ignoring a large head gash — sustained when the man collapsed — Michael checked for vital signs. All were negative. There was no pulse.
He attached the AED. It recommended a shock. He followed the prompts, and administered one. Immediately, cardiac rhythm was restored.
“That’s a blessing,” Michael says. “The best blood pump in the world is your own heart. He wasn’t without a pulse for very long.”
Michael secured the man’s airway. Then he and membership coordinator Steve Forlano attended to his head wound.
Meanwhile, the rest of the Y staff followed the exact protocol they train for. The membership desk called 911. Someone waited outside to escort emergency personnel through the maze of hallways to the gym.
When firefighters, police and EMTs arrived, they took over. Soon, the man was on his way to Norwalk Hospital.
The next day, his fianceé called the Y to thank everyone. He could have died, she said. Instead he had an angioplasty (and 17 stitches in his head), and will be fine.
He’ll be released from the hospital tomorrow.
Michael has a special background. He spent 20 years with Weston’s fire department and EMTs. But, he insists, “anyone in the building would have done what I did.
“It was a real team effort. There were so many people involved. I still don’t know all their names.
“There was an awesome continuum of care,” he adds. “From the minute he hit the floor to the end result, he had excellent care.
“AEDs were in place. We were trained to use them. Westport EMTs are some of the best in the country, so the pre-hospital help was fantastic. And then Norwalk Hospital followed up with more great care.”
Michael concludes: “I feel proud of the Y, and the team effort that took place. I’m just glad I could take the training we’re all given, and apply it when it was needed.”
Michael had the weekend off. He returns to the Y this week.
Soon, he’ll move to part-time status. He’s headed to Norwalk Community College, taking courses in physical therapy.
He could probably skip the first-aid portion of the curriculum.
Then again, Michael Friedman never would.