Steven St. Germain’s last memory of Aug. 25 is of getting ready for the day in his bedroom, before suddenly: darkness. When he awoke, he was in the hospital and two days had passed.
The Okanagan Falls resident suffered a major heart attack which nearly claimed his life that day, if not for the quick-thinking and persistence of his two neighbours, Ken and Kim Oszinski and the hard work of emergency personnel.
It’s a day the Oszinski’s, who have been neighbors with Steve for nearly two years, remember with emotion.
“I heard (Gail St. Germain) scream for help,” recalled Ken. “She was just screaming frantically. I just came running right into their house … and when I looked at Steve, he didn’t look good. He was just totally purple.”
Gail had the 911 dispatcher on the phone, which she handed to Ken out of shock.
Ken said the dispatcher remained on the line with him and helped him through the next most frightening 15 minutes of his life.
“She was really good. She told me exactly what to do,” said Ken.
Ken was instructed to do 600 compressions before giving Steve mouth-to-mouth. Kim, who hadn’t been far behind Ken, took over compressions, having been trained in CPR.
The pair would trade positions, Kim giving mouth-to-mouth as Ken continued compressions as they waited for the ambulance to arrive.
Kim felt for a pulse. There wasn’t one, except a faint flutter at one point.
“We were just like, ‘Please ambulance, just hurry up and get here,’” Kim recalled. “It was a great response time.”
When the ambulance arrived, paramedics continued CPR on Steve. He was shocked nearly a dozen times with paddles.
Ken said he believes Steve didn’t have a heartbeat for 45 minutes.
Firefighters joined paramedics for the ambulance ride to Penticton Regional Hospital. It wasn’t until the ambulance turned the last corner before the hospital that Steve’s heartbeat returned.
“They didn’t give up, they worked hard,” said Kim through tears. “We’re grateful.”
Three-and-a-half months later, Steve and Gail hosted a small get together Friday night with the paramedics, fire fighters, dispatcher and the Oszinski’s to honour their efforts in saving Steve’s life.
“None of these people quit on me,” Steve said tearfully.
Ken and Kim were both honoured with the Vital Link Award, medals awarded to members of the public for their quick thinking and assistance in saving a life.
It’s an award Steve arranged to have given to Ken and Kim.
“When I came home, the first thing I did is I walked around to my neighbours’ house. We needed to hug it out. They saved my life. I’m not here if they’re not here,” said Steve.
“I’m honoured by the way people treated me in my darkest hour,” he continued. “There are angels in our community. People who volunteer and give up themselves – the firefighters … the ambulance people, the emergency people, the doctors, the nurses.”