Every minute matters during a cardiac event.

That’s why Sally Oswalt, a retired nurse of 43 years, wasted no time to start performing CPR on Mansfield man Paul McClain, who was lying on the ground after a workout.

At the time of the incident about five years ago, McClain and Oswalt were taking a class at the OhioHealth Ontario Health & Fitness Center.

McClain, now 66, who likes to keep active, said as part of the class they were running sprints around the track with weights.

“I’m fairly competitive so I was trying to beat everybody, and I think I actually did, and I probably beat them to the floor, too,” McClain said with a laugh.

McClain remembers feeling light-headed and mentioning to a friend that he felt like he was going to pass out.

“It started from the top of my head,” he said. “I was still kind of half with it, but I couldn’t see anymore, and then I went down towards the floor. I didn’t want to fall, I just rolled over and passed out.”

Meanwhile, Oswalt, who was just finishing the workout, noticed people starting to crowd around McClain, asking him if he was OK.

“When I walked over to him I knew immediately (something was wrong) because I worked in the ICU and ER and I resuscitated a lot of people in my life,” Oswalt said.

She began chest compressions — her first time to perform CPR outside of a hospital. Fortunately, with fitness center staff present and urgent care physicians just next door, she received plenty of assistance and was able to switch off CPR with others nearby.

Although it lasted a few minutes, it felt much longer in the moment, she recalled.

“I don’t remember a doggone bit of that, although I do remember being hit with the paddles a couple of times,” McClain said.

McClain remembers leaving the fitness center on a stretcher.

“Hitting the doorway woke me up, and then I thought, ‘Oh good, we’re getting out of here,’” he said.

During the ambulance ride, an EMT asked him basic questions and McClain was able to answer each one. When they arrived at the hospital, McClain underwent a series of tests.

“They were kind of baffled. They couldn’t figure out how a guy could pass out, be out for almost 10 minutes, close to 15, and be able to wake up, know who he is, where he is and what he’s doing,” he said.

He stayed in the hospital overnight.

“They didn’t find any heart damage. I hadn’t had heart attack. And there weren’t any electrical problems,” he said.

It was after they checked his blood vessels that they discovered he had three blocked arteries, one with about 80 percent blockage and the other two with about 50 percent.

McClain underwent triple bipass surgery on a Friday morning and was cleared to leave the hospital the following Monday. Three months later he was well enough to go skiing. He remains well to this day.

“I was fortunate to have those good people there to do the CPR because I think that did make a difference,” he said. “Even though I didn’t have a heartbeat they were able to keep air in my lungs.”

Oswalt said she was amazed by McClain’s recovery.

“The thing that amazed me the most was that he didn’t have any brain dysfunction from lack of oxygen or anything because we were right there,” she said. “We even waited until we had a mask to do mouth-to-mouth. I just did compressions. So that just goes to show when you get to them quickly and you do (CPR) that it does help.”

According to the American Heart Association, CPR, especially if performed immediately, can double or triple a cardiac arrest victim’s chance of survival.

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Anderson demonstrates how to use a bag valve mask, used to provide positive pressure ventilation to patients who are not breathing or not breathing adequately.

Nurse Tanya Anderson, training center coordinator/American Heart Association instructor and clinical educator at OhioHealth Mansfield Hospital, works at the hospital and out in the community to train others on CPR.

In the past she’s worked with a number of different groups, including the sheriff’s department, local churches, businesses, medical professionals, among others.

“People are becoming more educated as to how important it is to know CPR,” she said.

With hands-only CPR, there are two basic steps: call 9-1-1 and then push hard and fast in the center of the chest over the lower half of the breastbone to the beat of a familiar song (“Stayin’ Alive" by the Bee Gees or “Crazy in Love” by Beyonce) that has 100 to 120 beats per minute.

Hands-only CPR performed by a bystander has been shown to be as effective as CPR with breaths in the first few minutes of an out-of-hospital sudden cardiac arrest for an adult victim, according to the AHA. Although, the AHA still recommends CPR with compressions and breaths for infants, children, victims of drowning or drug overdose, or people who collapse due to breathing problems.

It’s common for the victim’s sternum to break when CPR is administered, but Anderson says this shouldn’t deter you from performing CPR. According to the AHA, injury is better than death. 

“Doing something is better than doing nothing,” she said.

One common mistake people make is forgetting to call 9-1-1 immediately. Another is neglecting to use an AED (if available).

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Anderson demonstrates how to use an AED

According to the AHA, 9 in 10 cardiac arrest victims who receive a shock from an AED in the first minute live.

“An AED is very simple to use and it's very important that they do use it as soon as it is available. An AED will detect if there is a shockable rhythm, provide a shock to reorganize the electrical activity that remains in the heart and hopefully return the heart to a regular rhythm. The longer we delay the use of the AED, the less chance of survival and less chance there is still an electrical activity in the heart to reorganize with a shock,” Anderson said.

Call Anderson at 419-526-8008 for more information on CPR and how to register for a course.

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Thrive Reporter

Thrive reporter. Graduate of Ontario High School and Ohio State Mansfield. Wife. Mom. Dog lover. Fitness enthusiast. Plant collector. Mac and cheese consumer.