The purchase of a home defibrillator turned out to be a very wise decision made by Coalmont residents Diane and Bob Sterne.
Although the couple had no history of heart problems the purchase was made because Diane worried about how long it would take for medical help to arrive to Coalmont (19 km from Princeton) if either of them should have a heart-related emergency.
On Dec. 30, 2011, while out shoveling snow, Bob Sterne’s heart just stopped.
While letting her dogs out, neighbour Suzie Michaud witnessed Sterne fall down, try to get up and then go down again. She immediately ran inside to get her husband Ray Michaud to help and then called her dad, Maurice Chartrand.
During this time, Diane was on the phone to 911. Within less than a minute, Chartrand and his two sons who were visiting for the holidays — Mike and Shane were on scene and began CPR.
Ray Michaud arrived just as Diane brought out the home defibrillator and together he and Diane hooked it up to Bob. The machine went to work and a shock was given.
“He gasped and then went out again,” said Michaud.
CPR ensued with Mike and Shane again until the defibrillator was ready to proceed. The second shock was given—Bob breathed and his pulse was detected by Shane.
By this time, thanks to the phone call chain of neighbours, Jodi Woodford, Chief of the Tulameen Fire Department, arrived and outfitted Bob with oxygen.
“It was scary there for a while,” said Chartrand, “but once we got him breathing, we knew he’d be okay.”
Due to treacherous road conditions, it took 45 minutes for the ambulance to arrive.
“It was awful, said Michaud, “we could hear the sirens from the ambulance for 10 minutes before they got to us. That’s how bad the roads were.”
On Jan. 12, Bob Sterne had surgery to implant a pacemaker/defibrillator. For some unknown reason on Dec. 30, his heart short-circuited and the implant will prevent it from happening again.
According to Diane, the doctors are amazed with Bob’s condition.
“The quick actions of Maurice, Mike and Shane meant that Bob not only lived, but he didn’t suffer any brain damage,” she said.
The defibrillator traveled with Bob to Vancouver, as it stored medical information from his event.
“I would highly recommend this life saving machine to anyone who lives any distance from emergency response,” she added.
The help given to the Sterne’s did not end once Bob was finally loaded into the ambulance. Neighbours took care of their motel, called the Sterne children, took care of their puppy and drove Diane to Penticton.
Diane and Bob Sterne send their deepest and most sincere thanks to their heroes, friends and neighbours, to the doctors and nurses and to God for orchestrating the entire rescue.
“We will never forget you and we will never be able to thank you enough.”