Dwayne Harrison, 23, is alive today. For that he thanks the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario and Toronto Emergency Medical Services’ Cardiac Safe City Public Access Defibrillator Program, and a fast-acting City of Toronto Parks, Forestry and Recreation worker as well as Toronto EMS paramedics and emergency medical dispatchers.
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Harrison, a member of the George Brown College Huskies men’s basketball team, was playing a pickup game at Lawrence Heights Community Centre in North York on August 29 at about 8:45 p.m. when he collapsed from a sudden cardiac arrest. Tonight, at 8 p.m., courtside in George Brown College’s King Street East gymnasium, Harrison met and thanked his rescuers for the first time since the incident. Dwayne Harrison Recognition Night was organized by Harrison’s coach, Jonathan Smith.
Harrison thanked Ted Rennie, the Toronto Parks, Forestry and Recreation custodian who called 911 for paramedic assistance. Thanks to Rennie’s training – provided as part of Toronto EMS’s Safe City program – and the help of a bystander, he was able to start cardiopulmonary resuscitation and retrieve the centre’s automated external defibrillator (AED) to deliver two life-saving shocks.
Rennie was assisted over the phone by Toronto EMS emergency medical dispatcher Rocky Ruffolo and later by Toronto EMS paramedics Jose Araujo and Kyle Romany, who provided further care at the scene and during the transport to Sunnybrook Hospital’s cardiac care centre.
Harrison commented, “Every morning, every day it hits me. I think of what happened and how people – friends and strangers – did things to keep me alive.”
“Although AEDs are simple for any bystander to use, in this case the employees were trained as part of our Cardiac Safe City Program,” said Gayle Pollock, Toronto EMS Commander, Safe City. “With their training and willingness to help, they started the chain of events to make this a success story.”
According to Pollock, “It requires a complete team effort to save a life, including a bystander willing to help, an emergency medical dispatcher ready to assist with instructions over the phone, paramedics with advanced care medical support, and the continued care emergency room with cardiac staff and physicians.”
“This life saved is a testament to what happens when community members learn CPR and use an AED when it is within reach,” said Andrew Lotto, Manager of Resuscitation Programs, Heart and Stroke Foundation. “With continued support of the public, community groups and funding partners, one day AEDs will be as commonplace as fire extinguishers in Ontario to save lives.”