Electrician takes charge of 1st aid situation

He had recently taken a rigorous 10-day level 3 first aid course with St. John Ambulance

When a fellow worker fell and broke his back while on the job, Campbell River’s Frank Sputek knew exactly what to do.

Sputek had recently taken a rigorous 10-day level 3 first aid course with St. John Ambulance – a decision that would help save the lives of two different people.

In April of 2012, six months after taking the course, Sputek, who works in the industrial electrical industry, was at work when he heard someone yelling.

“Someone alerted me there was a man down,” said Sputek who ran to the staff room to grab the First Aid kit. “He had been laying there for some time. He was in distress, he was semi-conscious.”

As a level 3 first aider, Sputek took control of the scene, as he was taught. He commanded a fellow worker to stabilize the man’s head and neck while Sputek identified himself to the patient, who was in severe pain. Sputek also enlisted the help of two other workers on the scene who grabbed oxygen and blankets from the first aid room.

Sputek said the man was grey, going into shock and starting to slip away.

“We managed to get oxygen into him and we got the patient stable, warm and oxygenated and he was talking by the time the ambulance arrived to take him to the hospital. He had broken his lower back but was back at work within a couple of months,” said Sputek who credits his St. John Ambulance training for putting him in a position to help.

“I know I would not have acted had I not had this training,” Sputek said. “I thought, ‘I know what to do here’ and the people around me didn’t. I had the inspiration to do it.”

Sputek’s inspiration and confidence was recognized last month by the Canadian Electricity Association at a gala in Ottawa Nov. 5.

Sputek was honoured with a 2013 Lifesaving Award for his actions that day at work as well as for a second incident which happened six months later, on Oct. 9, 2012.

While on an Air Canada flight from Edmonton to Vancouver, Sputek witnessed a man, who had been sitting a few rows behind him on the plane, walk by and then pass out in the middle of the aisle, a few rows in front of Sputek.

The plane had just departed and the seat belt sign had just come off.

Sputek said two flight attendants rushed to the man, who was unconscious and lying face down, but were unsuccessful in trying to revive him.

“At which point they called over the microphone for a doctor and there was no response. There were no practitioners on board,” Sputek said. “I’m watching what they’re doing and I tapped the stewardess on the shoulder and I asked if I could provide some assistance.”

Sputek told her he was a level three first aider and she readily accepted his help.

Sputek said because he witnessed what happened, he was able to quickly eliminate several factors such as a heart attack, seizure, or stroke.

“I rolled the man over and I realized he was overheating,” Sputek said. “His eyes were closed but his pulse was strong so I was able to eliminate a heart attack.”

Sputek gave the man oxygen and cooled him down by opening his jacket and his belt.

“In cooling him down, we brought him back and got him conscious again,” Sputek said. “We stabilized him.

“He was fully coherent with me.”

Within 20 minutes, Sputek said the man was back in his seat and alert. The plane was able to continue on its way to Vancouver – where the plane was met by paramedics – without having to make an emergency landing.

Sputek was recognized by Air Canada for his heroic actions in a letter from the airline’s senior medical advisor and credited with flight points.

After accepting the life saver award, Sputek also received a congratulatory letter from the president of NAIT, the Northern Albert Institute of Technology, where Sputek received his electrical training in the 1980s.

While the recognition is nice, Sputek said it’s St. John Ambulance that deserves the credit.

“I am humbled to have received this recognition award and feel very fortunate that I was able to assist the individuals in need,” Sputek said. “It is however incumbent on me to also give credit where credit is due.

“That is at St. JohnAmbulance, in that, without the level 3 training I had completed, I would not have been able to respond in the manner I did.

“Training remains the foundation of success in medical emergencies and these critical real life examples I was involved in only amplify the importance of training,” Sputek said. “I would certainly like to thank St. John Ambulance and one of the toughest instructors, that really made the difference in the end.”

Charlotte Doyle, the Campbell River St. John branch administrator, said the organization is “really honoured” to have trained Sputek and is “proud to be able to provide the community with life-saving tools.”

Doyle said St. John Ambulance in Campbell River has trained more than 3,000 people in first aid this year alone.