Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Defibrillator a heartfelt gift

For Valentine's Day, why not learn CPR?

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LEARNING CPR or getting a defibrillator is one of the most loving gifts you can give for Valentine's Day, say those who've lost loved ones.

"They're super important, I think," said Lynne Penner, whose love story was cut short in 2011.

This Valentine's Day, like so many other special occasions, are tough for the LaSalle woman, who suddenly lost her 43-year-old husband, Glenn Penner. One fall day, he felt like he was coming down with the flu and when Lynne went inside from working in the garden, he'd collapsed.

She and their teenage son waited for the ambulance and performed CPR. LaSalle had an automatic external defibrillator (AED) but it was locked up at the time and they struggled to find someone to access it, she said.

"It's frustrating not to be able to do something while waiting for the ambulance," she said. She later learned he'd had severe heart disease that was undiagnosed and his family was told the AED may not have been able to save him.

That didn't stop them from raising more than $10,000 after his death to buy three AEDs for the community, Penner said. Her sister came up with the idea to host fundraising Kumbaya for Heart bonfires in memory of Penner, who loved being at the lake and sitting around the fire. They were held all over LaSalle and as far away as New Zealand, with donations to the fund made online through the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

Today, thanks to them, there's an AED in the credit union vestibule at LaSalle, which is accessible to anyone with an ATM card. There's one in the rink at Domain and the nearby Hutterite colony, she said.

There are 1,500 AEDs in communities across Manitoba, said Diana Bayles of the Heart and Stroke Foundation. And they are being used to save lives.

Last week, an AED at the Holiday Inn on Portage Avenue in St. James was put to use by a city doctor riding the bus downtown to revive a passenger who went into cardiac arrest.

Bayles said the man was lucky emergency physician Dr. Doug Eyolfson was on the bus and guessed the big hotel would have one.

"It was a shot in the dark," said Eyolfson. He said he saw an elderly man get on at the same stop as him. A while later, another passenger was checking on the man who'd slumped over man. "His colour was terrible." The ER doctor took over. A week later, Eyolfson said, his fellow passenger is doing well. It could've ended much differently, though.

Just one other person on the bus said they knew CPR and Eyolfson, who teaches it, said he hopes people who hear the story are encouraged to learn the lifesaving skill.

"It would be good if that inspired more people to learn CPR."

Bayles said the foundation sells CPR instruction kits for $40.

"It's a true gift from the heart."

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 14, 2013 A6

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