Thinking about “when” and not “if,” staff at the Health, Fitness & Recreation Center (FitRec) at Moraine Valley Community College are trained to provide a professional and quick response to medical emergencies. The fruit of that labor paid off in the way of life-saving efforts in January when a member went into cardiac arrest in the pool.
“Nothing is more important or more of a priority for our staff training,” said Mike Schneider, director of Campus Recreation. “Knowing our volume usage and that many of our members are older adults, we knew the likelihood of a medical emergency occurring in our facility would be ‘when’ not ‘if.’ That’s why we train and review our CPR, first aid and medical response plan. In addition, we do random mock scenario emergency training, and we audit the staff at position trainings throughout the year.”
Thanks to the quick efforts of staff, a Worth man in his 80s is alive and well today. Lifeguard and swim instructor Annie Rangel, of Palos Heights, was putting in lane lines for a swim class when she saw something wasn’t right with a patron in the pool.
“Leonard (Martz) was swimming a little, kicking a little, treading a little, and he would pop up each time,” she said. “Then I noticed he didn’t pop up. I also noticed there were no signs of struggle, but I went to check on him.” Rangel, a senior at Shepard High School who is enrolled in the college’s dual enrollment CNA program, said he didn’t respond when she tapped him on the shoulder nor when she flipped him onto his back.
That’s when staff sprang into action getting Martz out of the pool and CPR started. Rangel’s resuscitation efforts combined with Sgt. James Twohill’s compressions and building manager Peter Herrera’s use of an automated external defibrillator kept Martz going until EMTs arrived at the scene. “At first I was scared he wasn’t going to be ok, but later I learned he was doing really well. I felt great that I could help,” Rangel said.
Rangel, Sgt. Twohill and Herrera, along with Angel Rivera, entrance attendant, and Dan Ochenkowski, building manager, were honored with Life Saver Awards from the FitRec.
“I’m very proud that these young adults used their training, stayed calm and ultimately saved Leonard’s life,” Schneider said. “They never panicked, they never stopped assisting—they all worked together as a team and performed at such a high level to produce a wonderful outcome.”
Schneider plans to use this incident to continue to improve the center’s response plan. “Safety of our members and students always will be our first priority,” he said.