Moments after scoring a “great point” on the badminton court, Charles Barton began feeling dizzy. The sensation consumed him quickly. Before he could find anywhere to sit down, everything went black and he toppled to the floor.
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It wasn’t long before his heart and breathing stopped.
Charles Barton the Survivor
Were it not for the quick actions of fellow players — Dr. David Stenning and Phil Barnes, a Toronto firefighter — and access to an automated external defibrillator (AED) to shock his system, that would be the story of how he died.
“No defibrillator, no me,” Barton, a member of the Orangeville Badminton Club, said from his Brampton home, where he’s recovering following heart surgery.
“It’s just awesome. People that you really only knew in passing, that they would come and do so much for you,” he said. “They’re an amazing group of people, who have become more than just friends. Now we’ve walked a journey together.”
Barnes and Stenning were playing doubles badminton at Orangeville District Secondary School the evening of March 29 when they heard someone calling out for help.
They rushed over to find Barton bleeding from the head and seemingly taking his last breath. Checking for a pulse, they found none and Barnes started performing chest compressions — without success.
As they did that, another club member went to grab the school’s AED, while someone else called 911.
“Just by pure coincidence, when the season started, I made a point of finding out where it was in the school,” Barnes said of the AED. “The very first night of the badminton season, I just walked the halls until I found it.”
The device was attached to Barton’s chest and after it determined a shock was suitable, the Brampton man was zapped back to life.
“They really are lifesavers, if there’s one nearby and somebody knows how to use it. They are easy to use,” Stenning said, explaining he’d never used an automated one before. “It’s pretty self-explanatory, as you go through the use of it.”
Barton’s resurrection came a few seconds later, but like the heart failure had, it came quickly.
“Charles reached up and grabbed my hand. That was so eerie,” Barnes said. “That had never happened to me. I’ve been a firefighter for 16 years and I’ve done maybe 30 VSA (vital signs absent) calls and this is the first time a person has ever come back like that.”
A couple minutes later, paramedics arrived and whisked Barton off to Headwaters Health Care Centre. Two days later, he went to Southlake Regional Health Centre in Newmarket for an angiogram to determine what happened.
“They found that I had three arteries with 100 per cent blockage and one with 75 per cent blockage,” Barton explained. “I really had no right to get by that, considering the activity I was doing and what I was running on.”
On April 8, he underwent a quadruple heart bypass and appears to be mending well.
“It was just something out of the blue, thus making the need to have something available like these portable defibrillators for people who have no warning signs, like myself,” Barton said of his heart failure.
Explaining his cholesterol wasn’t “wildly out of shape,” the only indication anything was wrong is that he tired more easily than usual the previous couple weeks.
“These things are essential when you need them,” Barton said of AEDs. “I would just not be here without one of those.”