Steven St. Germain pictured with Michelle Foley, the dispatcher who helped neighbours and family keep St. Germain alive until first responders arrived. (Phil McLachlan - Western News)

December: Brush with death gives new meaning to life

Looking back at our biggest stories from each month in 2019

‘There are angels out there’ – Okanagan Falls resident reunited with those who saved his life

Thanks to the quick actions of several individuals, Steven St. Germain is spending Christmas with his family.

After a brush with death, the Okanagan Falls resident took it upon himself to personally thank everyone who helped save his life on Aug. 25, 2019.

It was a day like any other, as St. Germain was getting ready to head into town. After working out the previous day, he started to perform some stretches in the bedroom while his wife Gail was getting ready to go.

Two days later, Steven woke up in the hospital.

As he was stretching, Steven collapsed, suffering from cardiac arrest. Gail rushed into the room to find him convulsing on the floor.

She immediately ran out onto the patio and screamed for help. On the phone with 911, Gail spoke with Michelle Foley, a dispatcher based out of Kamloops.

Simultaneously, neighbours Kim and Ken Oszinski ran into the room and started administering CPR with the assistance of Foley who guided them over the phone.

“That’s what started to save my life,” said Steven.

“And it’s an amazing story because anything good that could have happened to me at that moment, did. It just did.”

Next came the fire department, and two firefighters took over in administering CPR. A few minutes later the ambulance arrived, and after Steven was loaded into the vehicle, first responders were unable to find a pulse.

“As it turns out, they started to give me a large number of shocks, and they finally started to get a bit of a heartbeat as they were turning into Penticton Regional Hospital,” said Steven.

“In all, I think it was 40 minutes.”

A day-and-a-half later Steven woke up, and besides feeling disoriented, confused and concerned, he was none the worse for wear.

Since then, he has received an implanted cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) in case something like this were to happen again.

“Now I’m partly bionic but I’ve got a backup to the backup plan,” he said.

With a background in the military, Steven said he understands what it’s like to be the person responsible for assisting someone when they are in dire straits.

He also understands that much pride comes from this, but not many want the recognition.

“You’re not doing it for the recognition, but on the other hand it needs to be recognized because these are special situations where life is in the balance, and because of one persons’s actions, somebody has the opportunity to move forward another day,” he said.

Ever since the incident, Steven is viewing life through new eyes.

“There are angels out there,” he said. “I’m emotional about it, because I know what the options were. How these professionals do their job on a day-to-day basis, it amazes me. It really and truly does.

“These (emergency services) are all very stressful environments, yet they (first responders) seem to be at their best when they’re in those situations, and that amazes me.”

Dec. 6 served as a celebration and a reunion. The St. Germain home was full of family and friends who welcomed guests from B.C. Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) as well as the local fire department, including the B.C. Ambulance unit chief, Pat Husey, and the dispatcher who helped during those critical first moments.

Husey presented neighbours Kim and Ken Oszinski with Vital Link awards to honour their life-saving intervention.

According to BCEHS, in every minute that passes without help in an emergency situation, a person’s chance of surviving a cardiac arrest drops by about ten per cent.

“As Steven said, you’re our heroes,” said Gail to the group of first responders.

“You’re unspoken heroes. And we just wanted to take an opportunity to say thank you, because without you, we wouldn’t have our family here today. And my daughter…wouldn’t be coming home to Christmas with her dad.”

Part of the reason this reunion was arranged was because several groups of local first responders never found out what had happened to Steven after that fateful day. Some thought he had passed on.

“It was at that point in time I knew it was important for me to speak with all of them,” said Steven.

The 63-year-old has always recognized the value of life, because, he explained, he has seen the other side of things while serving as a soldier. That being said, Steven shared some advice.

“It’s never too early in the morning to hug your wife,” he said.

“You can’t say ‘I love you’ too often to those around you.”

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