Two strangers from the same small town in Canada were visiting Florida at the same time, in the same area. As fate would have it, the pair met under the most unexpected circumstances and one even saved the other’s life.
Tom Reddon of Fredericton was jogging during a Florida vacation with his longtime friend Bernie Arseneau when he suffered a heart attack.
The pair have run together quite regularly over the past 25 years, but that morning they decided to warm up with a half-mile walk before their 5-kilometer run.
During the warmup, Reddon suggested they take a selfie and as Arseneau put his smartphone away he heard Reddon say, “Oh Bernie.”
“I looked up and down the street, thinking [something] was coming, and turned around and Tom had collapsed on the ground, unconscious.”
Two women who were walking by rushed over, one called 911 and the other went searching for help. That’s when one woman found Sandy MacNeill (also from Fredericton) who knew CPR.
MacNeill, who had taken several courses over the years, but never actually performed the procedure in a real situation, ran to Reddon and began emergency chest compressions with mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
“Tom didn’t have a pulse, so I just made sure somebody had called 911 and then continued to give CPR until we heard the sirens and the fire trucks showed up,” MacNeill said.
“It seemed to take forever, but also, you know, time was just flying by,” he said. It was “a blur of adrenalin.”
Emergency crews arrived within minutes and were able to get Reddon’s heart started with a defibrillator.
“The firemen there said they had gotten his heart started again, so that certainly was a good sign,” said MacNeill.
Arseneau watched as his friend was loaded into an ambulance.
“I said goodbye to him, not knowing how this was going to turn out, ’cause he was unconscious at the time,” he said.
Reddon required a several hours long emergency surgery where two stents were placed in his heart, but he is expected to make a full recovery.
“For my type of [cardiac] arrest, the success rate is not very high, so to have somebody there to immediately call 911, to do CPR and to have a hospital close by … and to have cardiac surgeons on hand to fix me up, I mean, it’s amazing that everything fell together so well for me,” said Reddon.
Arseneau says he only learned that MacNeill was from Fredericton later that afternoon and the pair had actually met the previous year.
Reddon was able to meet his life-saver last weekend and says the experience was “very emotional.”
“We got along famously well, and I think we’ll get together when we get back in Fredericton over a craft beer or two and talk about life and stuff.”
Though MacNeill suggested another idea.
“I think maybe we should all meet at a CPR course,” he said.