EMTs, Gym Staff Honored For Saving Woman’s Life

November 9, 2018
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EMTs, Gym Staff Honored For Saving Woman’s Life

EDWARDSVILLE — Carol Centrella was walking on a treadmill at Planet Fitness in Edwardsville when she began to feel faint.

Soon after, she lost consciousness and collapsed. She was in cardiac arrest.

A team of people helped her survive that ordeal at her gym in August. On Thursday, Edwardsville Borough honored them.

“That day, by the grace of God, I was at the right place at the right time with the right people. So they’re all my angels,” said Centrella, 79, of Kingston.

Centrella thanked the people who helped her off the treadmill as she began to collapse, a fellow gym patron and another gym member who used CPR and the first responders who revived her and took her to the hospital.

Trans-Med Ambulance paramedic David Prohaska was the first emergency responder to arrive. By then, Centrella was undergoing CPR, and Planet Fitness staff had used an automatic emergency defibrillator on her. Two other parademics, Michael Stets and Jamie Souder, were close behind.

Prohaska told a nurse to continue performing CPR. Centrella needed another jolt from the AED.

The trio continued working. By the time they loaded Centrella into an ambulance she was alert and talking while they headed to Wilkes-Barre General Hospital.

At the hospital, doctors explained that she had an arrhythmia — an irregular heartbeat. She allowed them to implant a pacemaker/defibrillator in her chest to help regulate her heart.

She recovered at home for a few weeks, but was eager to resume exercising.

On Sept. 24, Centrella walked back into the gym.

She still walks on the treadmill, though she’s slower now since the cardiac arrest. She wants to go back to strength exercises on the gym’s machines.

Exercise has been an important part of her life for decades. When she was 42, Centrella had a heart attack. That was a call to change her lifestyle.

At the time, she smoked more than two packs of cigarettes a day, ate half a pound of bacon as a snack and was 50 pounds overweight. She walked less because she used her car to go everywhere she needed to go. Her brother, 89-year-old George Heidenreich, helped her get interested in walking again and in exercising. Now, she’s a frequent visitor at the gym, and she loves Planet Fitness for her physical and social health.

“Please do me a favor,” she told the crowd gathered in the Edwardsville council room. “For your health and peace of mind, go to Planet Fitness. The people are wonderful. The members are wonderful. It’s the best place in the world. Had I been home by myself, I would have been dead.”

The episode is a reminder that learning CPR can save someone’s life, Prohaska said. The more people who are trained, the more likely it is that someone who needs the life-saving technique will have a good outcome.

Prohaska teaches CPR every year to nursing home staffs, college students and others.

“We teach people not to be afraid,” he said. “You’re not going to make it worse, you can only make it better.”

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570-821-2051, @CVBillW