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Retired Edmonton teacher reunites with paramedics who saved her life after heart attack

Jason McNeil, Todd Dundon and Sharon Smith at the Bonnie Doon EMS station Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2015. Global News

EDMONTON — An Edmonton woman who suffered a heart attack while at a local casino in late July had the opportunity Tuesday to meet and thank the paramedics who saved her life.

On July 23, Sharon Smith was getting her first taste of her new life, after retiring from a career as a school teacher just three weeks earlier. She was playing the slot machines at the River Cree Casino and as she was getting ready to leave, she felt light headed.

“I thought I’d just sit down. Whatever it was was going to pass,” she explained. “I stood up and immediately passed out.”

The next thing she remembers was waking up on the floor with several casino employees attending to her. They called 911 and paramedics were quickly by her side. Smith was awake and talking as the EMS crew transported her to the ambulance. But as she was being loaded into the back of the vehicle, she insisted she was fine and that she wanted to go home.

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“I basically, I’m guessing three if not four times, just said, ‘I’d like to leave. Just let me out of the ambulance. I’m good. I’m feeling pretty normal,'” she recalled. “I was still very, very sure that there was absolutely nothing wrong with me.”

But, the emergency crew knew Smith was not fine. Paramedics performed an electrocardiogram test (ECG) which determined she was in fact having a heart attack.

“Jason informed me, and his words almost to the letter were, ‘You didn’t have a heart attack, you are having a heart attack.’ And at that point I shut up. I didn’t say one other word.”

Smith said her treatment throughout the entire process, from the casino to the ambulance, and all the way until she was discharged from the Royal Alexandra Hospital, was top notch. After a few weeks of recovery, Smith couldn’t help but think she must thank the people who were paramount in saving her life, especially since she insisted there was nothing wrong with her.

“You have people who are working very hard to save you and you’re not aware enough, nor is the opportunity arising obviously, to get their names,” she said. “You don’t know who they are and then they just disappear from your life… I couldn’t stop thinking that I needed to thank these young men.”

On Tuesday Smith finally got her chance. She visited the Bonnie Doon EMS station to properly thank paramedics Jason McNeil and Todd Dundon, and student Nicholas Hrynchyshyn, who helped save her life.

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“I just wanted them to know that I was so impressed with what they did for me. Their knowledge and skill was way beyond anything that I had expected.”

Since her heart attack, Smith has made a few lifestyle changes, eating healthier and exercising more. She hopes to enjoy her retirement to the fullest, thanks to the help of the paramedics who came to her aid that day in July.

“It certainly does tell you how precious life is,” said Smith. “To have that opportunity to know that yes, I can thoroughly enjoy retirement, every aspect of it, is very, very special. It truly is.”

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