Dennis Salo died at 12:30 p.m., July 17 in the men’s locker room at the Lakota Family YMCA.
But thanks to the efforts of quick-thinking aquatics staff members and Liberty Township firefighters, Salo was brought back to life to tell his story.
He returned to the YMCA for the first time since his heart attack two weeks ago – back to the same Silver Splash water aerobics class he had just finished before the attack.
“I died. They got my heart started and got me breathing. I’m enjoying life again,’’ Salo said Tuesday as his rescuers were honored with a proclamation by township trustees for their efforts.
The 69-year-old retiree had just completed the aquatics exercise class, changed into street clothes, and put his swimming gear into his bag, ready to leave when he had a heart attack.
Sara Matchison and Jill Cleaves were in the aquatics office when they received a call from the front desk that someone had fallen in the men’s restroom. After grabbing lifeguard Jake Sepela, the trio found Salo on the floor.
“We thought someone had fallen and bumped their head,” Cleaves said. “As soon as we saw him down, we knew…he was totally out.”
That’s when Matchison – at the time nine months pregnant – and Sepela began chest compressions and mouth to mouth resuscitation while Cleaves went to get the automated external defibrillator and directed the office staff to call 9-1-1.
“It (AED) took over and told us what to do…and it gave electric shocks,” Cleaves said. “We knew the steps of what to do and that’s what we did. We worked well as a team.”
Once the firefighters arrived, they took over, Cleaves said.
“We got out of their way completely. We heard a scream from the firemen – yeah, he’s back,’’ Cleaves said.
“It was incredible to see him…alive. He was out of it, but he was breathing on his own and his eyes were open.”
Firefighter Scott Schmits gave credit to the Y staff.
“It all starts with that first (compression) in Jake’s hands,’’ Schmits said.
“I didn’t do it alone,’’ Sepela said. Having them next to me (took) all the pressure off.”
Salo said he had no symptoms prior to the heart attack although he knew he was at risk. Ten years ago a virus damaged his heart.
Still sore from damage done to his ribs while chest compressions were being administered, Salo said his life is beginning to return to normal. He has lost memory from 12 hours before the heart attack through 52 hours afterward.
He met the firefighters who assisted him and Sepela – a Miami University student – for the first time Tuesday.
“I read the clinical notes. I was dead – clinically dead, with no pulse and I was not breathing,” Salo said today. “I’m very happy they were trained as they were. The people who are even happier are my wife and daughter.”
The incident, said fire Chief Paul Stumpf points to the need for more AEDs at businesses, schools, and public gathering spots.
“If this publicity encourages one person, business or organization to purchase an AED, then we’ve accomplished one of our goals,’’ Stumpf said.
Posted in: Liberty Township |