On Monday, April 4, 67-year old Don Sylvestre had just finished his shift working as a commissionaire at the Calgary passport office, and was racing to the Olympic Plaza LRT station eager to get home on time and sit down for dinner with his wife.
But at around 5 p.m., not long after finding a seat on the train, Sylvestre said a strange feeling came over him.
“It was like I was watching static or watching sparks,” he said.
His heart suddenly stopped beating and sent him crashing to the floor of the train, unconscious. Two Good Samaritans immediately began performing CPR while someone called 911.
Within four minutes, Van der Hoek and her partner Susan Boyle arrived at the northwest corner of 7th Avenue and 4th Street S.W. where the train had come to a halt.
A team of five emergency workers, including a SAIT paramedic student, tended to Sylvestre, taking turns performing CPR and using a defibrillator on Sylvestre several times while driving to the hospital.
Today, a pacemaker and defibrillator implanted in Sylvestre’s chest keeps him going. He said he feels healthy and happy, but knows the outcome could have been different without the help of the Good Samaritans and the team of paramedics.
“We have these heroes out there that are capable of such fabulous things,” Sylvestre said.
Van der Hoek said she doesn’t like to think of herself as a hero, adding she was simply doing her job. But she credited the two strangers for leaping into action to save Sylvestre.
“Those four minutes of CPR before we got there, if he didn’t have that, he could have left the hospital and ended up in a nursing home for the rest of his life. He might not have come back as himself,” she said.
She urged members of the public to take a CPR course. It only takes a day, but “it could be the difference between life and death,” she said.
“I really owe them my life,” said Sylvestre.