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Gina Pecori: The right place at the right time

By February 27, 2020Y Stories

Gina has been a personal trainer for over twenty-three years and has never let her CPR/AED certification expire all these years. She also has never had to put these life-saving skills to the test, but that changed in December 2019.  She had to perform lifesaving tactics TWICE in December just twenty days apart.

On December 2, 2019, Gina was finishing a personal training workout at Kerasotes and was walking down the hallway towards the women’s locker room.  As she approached the locker room, she saw a member, John Standard, laying on the floor. At first, she thought he had fallen, but as she got closer, she realized he was in trouble.  He had no pulse and was not breathing. She ran to the front desk and asked them to call 911, grabbed the AED which is located in the weight room, and ran back to John.  As she was headed back, another member who just happened to be a paramedic saw her running and went with her to provide assistance.  Sue Montgomery, Kerasotes employee, followed close behind. The three of them assisted with the AED and chest compressions.  The AED instructed them to give him a shock and, thankfully, that worked. As John became conscious, the paramedics arrived and took him to the hospital.

John’s doctors were amazed that he survived. He had suffered a massive heart attack; one they call the “widow maker.” These types of heart attacks are only survived by less than 7% of those who have them.   John spent a week in intensive care and had quadruple bypass surgery. He will be returning to Kerasotes as a Phase II Cardiac patient.  They credit Gina’s quick response and access to an AED as the main reason he survived.  Gina says, “It all happened so quickly.  I have had excellent first aid and CPR training.  I felt very prepared.”  John and his wife, Grace, are forever grateful to Gina and the other YMCA staff who worked quickly and carefully to save his life.  Later that night, Gina noticed a purple rubber band around her wrist and she remembered it was from the AED machine.  She still wears it today as a reminder of what happened that day and how grateful she is for the outcome.

It was just twenty days later that Gina would have to put those same skills to task.  Gina, as a routine, swims laps every Sunday at Kerasotes.  On Sunday, December 22, she decided to do a land exercise instead of lap swimming.  She was finishing her workout when she noticed Al Riddley, who was on a cardio machine, had collapsed.  Gina, with the help of other members and Al’s wife, Lynn, was able to get him to a flat surface. She determined he had no pulse and was not breathing. Her mind immediately went to the incident that had happened just a few weeks before.  She remembered thinking, “I’m ok, I have this.”  She asked someone to call 911 and started CPR.  Luckily, Matt Dougherty, a cardiac nurse who was working out close by, helped by taking turns doing chest compressions. They used the AED and shocked his heart hoping to get it back into normal rhythm.  The first shock didn’t work, so a second shock was administered. The second shock worked!  Paramedics arrived and he was transported to the hospital.

Gina learned that earlier in the week, Al had a routine procedure and was asked to stop taking his blood thinners.  This had caused some blood clotting which resulted in a stroke and a heart attack.  Gina was amazed that only three days later, on Christmas day, Al was released from the hospital.  Gina says the best thing that has come from this situation is the friendship that has developed.  They keep in touch by exchanging text messages every Sunday. The Riddley’s are in Florida for the winter and Al reports he feels great and is back to playing tennis and enjoying life.

Gina says, “The AED saved their lives.  I was just lucky that I was at the right place at the right time.”  She encourages everyone to take CPR classes. She says, “You just never know when you are going to need it.” Eight in ten cardiac arrests occur outside of a hospital.  Be prepared.  The YMCA of Springfield offers CPR and AED classes. Click here to find class schedule.  Learn CPR & SAVE A LIFE!