The faces change but the message stays the same: calling 911 right away and starting CPR saves lives, period.
First responders in London held their annual Survivors Day lunch Friday (May 23), packing the ballroom at the Middlesex County building downtown to capacity.
There was only time to fit in 22 of the 36 survivor stories that emerged in the past year; tales of locals saved from certain doom by paramedics, police, firefighters, dispatchers and true blue bystanders.
Shawn McLeish was one of the four young men electrocuted last summer while erecting a large party tent for Ashley Veldman’s wedding on a farm outside Watford. London student Jeremy Bowley, 21, was killed.
In April the Ministry of Labour laid nine charges against London company Signature Events, including failing to provide adequate training or supervision to a six-person crew and failing to provide enough information to employees about the hazards of overhead wires.
They were using a dolly to raise a pole when it touched an overhead wire running hydro to a nearby pig farm. Holding the dolly on the same side, Bowley and McLeish took the brunt of the 40,000-volt shock.
Showing where plastic surgeons had to graft skin from his torso to the outside of his right palm, he said he doesn’t remember the “incident” or the five days after.
Now 18 and mulling a move to Sault Ste. Marie to study forestry (he’s working at a conservation area near St. Thomas for the summer), McLeish hasn’t been scared off of hard labour or working outdoors.
“I’m not afraid of power lines or anything (but) I don’t do tents anymore,” he said. “I could never work in an office all day.”
Robert Mekis was one of the Ornge critical care flight paramedics who flew McLeish to Children’s Hospital (he was 17 at the time) and stressed the importance of calling 911 and starting CPR right away.
McLeish said he was “almost dead” and credits the team that responded, including Mekis and fellow flight paramedic Scott Marshall, Middlesex-London EMS paramedics Nicole Serpa and Adam Guenard and “CPR bystanders” Veldman and Andrew Hillan, with bringing him "back."
That said it’s unlikely emergency dispatcher Jodi Morley expected to be coaching the “scared spitless” Veldman through mouth-to-mouth with the victim.
“He was still breathing on his own when we arrived, he just had an irregular heartbeat,” he said of McLeish. “So we shocked him at the scene and he was waking up on the way to the hospital, we almost pulled his tube out.”
Veldman breathed life into McLeish while a friend did the compressions.
“I just wanted to know where everyone was,” she said. “I didn’t think it would turn out the way it did (without more deaths). I’m happy he’s alive.”