Quick action and the extensive training of staff at the Bainbridge Island Aquatic Center saved the life of a man who had a heart attack while swimming laps.
John Walk was about 600 meters into his swim when he noticed he was having trouble catching his breath. Walk got out of the pool and waved over to a lifeguard for assistance.
Taylor Walker, a lifeguard at the center, was the first to respond to Walk’s calls.
“I saw this guy waving for help, so I quickly got down and rushed over there and as I got toward him, I realized it was pretty serious; he was pretty distressed. So I signaled for [staff] to call 9-1-1,” Walker said.
As Walker rushed to Walk’s aid, Aquatics Program Manager Megan Pleli grabbed an AED (automatic external defibrillator) and an emergency response bag. Simultaneously, head lifeguard Tyrone Kleim rushed to Walk’s side to assist. As soon as Pleli and Kleim arrived, Walk lost consciousness.
The two lifeguards began CPR, Kleim administered chest compressions and Walker gave rescue breaths while Pleli readied the defibrillator and other staff cleared the patrons from the building.
The lifeguards continued CPR on Walk until EMS arrived on the scene. EMS responders stabilized Walk’s heartbeat before choppering him to the hospital.
“I always wanted to ride in a helicopter, but I was out cold and didn’t get to see any of it,” Walk later said.
Pleli said the training of her staff and quick response by EMS were crucial in the rescue.
“Everybody did their job and did it well. We’re very grateful that the outcome was the way it was and that he’s doing well,” Pleli said.
“Our training is working and my guards were able to respond and did a great job,” Pleli said.
“I train them so that they can go home and sleep at night, because I want them to know that they did the best job they possibly could,” she added.
At a March 2 meeting of the Bainbridge Island Metropolitan Park & Recreation District, the responders were recognized by Bainbridge Island Fire Chief Hank Teran for their quick actions.
Walk was also present at the recognition ceremony and expressed his gratitude to the responders who saved his life. Walk received an implanted cardiac device, which monitors his heart rate and will administer a shock if an arrhythmia is detected.
Despite his brush with death Walk still has a good sense of humor.
“The only disappointment I have is that I had a brand-new bathing suit and they had to cut it off at the hospital,” Walk said.