Paul Andaloro’s early-morning swim at Gus Ryder Pool on Jan. 18 began like any other.
He swam laps. But then on his cool down lap, it struck him. Dizziness.
That’s all the Mimico man remembers until he regained consciousness after three fast-acting lifeguards shocked his heart back into rhythm with an on-site automatic external defibrillator or AED.
Andaloro had suffered a cardiac arrest.
“These people’s training and dedication really pays off – it paid off for me,” Andaloro, 65, told reporters Friday morning on the Gus Ryder Pool deck as he thanked the three lifeguards who saved his life and the two paramedics who stabilized him for transport to Trillium Health Centre’s Mississauga Hospital, where he had emergency cardiac surgery.
Andaloro swims at the south Etobicoke pool three times a week and rides his bike 100 kilometres a week.
His heart surgeon repaired his heart, damaged when leads from his pacemaker began shredding his heart muscle, he said.
But doctors remain at a loss to explain why his heart stopped.
“My surgeon came in to see me a couple days later. He told me, ‘I didn’t think you were going to make it,’” Andaloro said in an interview.
Toronto EMS maintains more than 1,300 AEDs across the city. EMS trains more than 13,000 citizens each year on CPR, AED and First Aid, including Gus Ryder Pool staff.
Already this year, Andaloro is the third person whose life was saved by an AED installed in a public space as part of the city’s program, reported Gayle Pollock, commander of Toronto EMS Safe City Program. The two others had their hearts restarted at public skating rinks.
Last year, seven people were saved with public-access defibrillators, she said.
“When someone like Mr. Andaloro is in cardiac arrest, seconds count,” Pollock told reporters. “The quick work of the lifeguards and the community staff before paramedics arrived was critical to Mr. Andaloro’s recovery.
“Without CPR and defibrillation, fewer than five per cent of people who have a cardiac arrest outside of a hospital survive.”
When CPR is combined with the use of an AED in those early minutes, an individual’s chance of surviving a cardiac arrest increases by up to 75 per cent, Pollock said.
That morning, lifeguard Alessandra Filice saw Andaloro floating on his back, eyes closed, his face and mouth submerged in the water. She began frantically blowing her whistle.
Filice jumped in the water to pull him out. Fellow lifeguard Kristy Blair began CPR.
Lifeguard Cristine Vicek called 911, and ran to get the AED that would save Andaloro’s life.
Once the lifeguards applied the AED to Andaloro’s chest, it gave a shock. Blair continued CPR for two minutes. The AED indicated no further shock was required.
Andaloro began breathing on his own, his pulse returned before paramedics Bryan Rusk and Joe Barta continued treatment and stabilized Andaloro while they transported him to hospital.
“It’s a relief he looks so amazing. You wouldn’t be able to tell we saw him pass away and now he’s OK,” Vicek said.