When Fred Fredrickson led the charge to install an automated external defibrillator (AED) at the Alberni Golf Course, little did he know the decision would save a life—his own.
A machine is only as good as the humans who operate it, and in the instant that Fredrickson needed an AED two years ago, after his heart stopped in the middle of a round of golf, two people came to his rescue. On Sept. 29, 2022, Ed Francoeur and Tyler Ruel of Port Alberni received Vital Links awards from B.C. Emergency Health Services for their efforts.
Vital Link awards honour skillful bystanders who happen to witness an event and start lifesaving CPR, whether an AED is present or not.
Fredrickson was golfing on the sixth hole on Sept. 13, 2020 when he suddenly collapsed. Francoeur was in the next group of golfers and saw Fredrickson go down. A retired firefighter, Francoeur could tell Fredrickson was in cardiac arrest: he ran for Fredrickson and started cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) while someone else called 911.
Ruel was playing a round of golf with friends during a day off from his job as a firefighter with Port Alberni Fire Department. He was on the third hole when he saw someone on the nearby green holding their head “like they were waiting.” He heard someone say a person was doing chest compressions on a golfer. “I ran from my location to where Fred was on the sixth hole. One of the members was driving out an AED from the clubhouse.”
Ruel grabbed the AED and hooked it up to Fredrickson’s chest while Francoeur continued with chest compressions.
“We were able to shock him and continue with CPR until we got a pulse back,” Ruel said.
Fredrickson regained consciousness sometime after paramedics arrived.
“When we arrived back on scene Fred had a pulse…He chatted with me on the way to the hospital,” said Deb Roberts, one of three paramedics who responded to the golf club after Fredrickson’s collapse. Roberts was one of several BCEHS paramedics at the Alberni Golf Club to present Vital Link awards to Francoeur and Ruel.
“It was pretty traumatic,” Fredrickson said. “Thank goodness people like that were around. I’ve said thank you so many times and I say it again.”
Fredrickson said he was “a first aid guy” all his life, but he never picked up on the fact he was about to have a heart attack. He said a cardiologist at the hospital in Victoria “told me it was phenomenal odds that I made it.”
He said after receiving treatment in Victoria he noticed he felt better in a number of ways: “I don’t get cold feet anymore. Simple things like that.”
This presentation was also special for Roberts. “We very rarely as paramedics get an opportunity to reunite with our patients,” she said.
Many aspects of Fredrickson’s rescue seemed to have aligned: Francoeur is a retired firefighter; Ruel was his replacement at the Port Alberni Fire Department. Forty years ago, Francoeur used to teach CPR at North Island College; when he saw Fredrickson collapse, his training kicked in. Operation of an AED is part of Ruel’s regular recurrency training at the firehall.
The AED came about after a Zone 6 golf team won a tournament a few years ago. “We have to donate the (winnings) somewhere involving golf, so I suggested they put in an AED, and they did,” Fredrickson explained.
Several club members chipped in the rest of the cost, and two volunteers make sure the AED is serviced regularly.
“They’re very simple these days,” noted Ruel. “They walk you through step by step for the public. You definitely shouldn’t be afraid to use it.”