He’s ran marathons, team ultramarathons and biked more than 200 kilometres to raise money for cancer research but on Oct. 5, Dragomir Vujnovic was stopped in his tracks.
The 57-year-old was out for a run in Edmonton’s river valley. In an interview on Tuesday, Vujnovic said he remembers leaving his house, then waking up two days later at the Mazankowski Heart Institute, where doctors told him he had gone into cardiac arrest.
He collapsed nearly five kilometres from his house in Emily Murphy Park. Good Samaritans stepped in, started CPR and likely saved his life.
“When I woke up, they said the survival rate is only three per cent in cases like that,” Vujnovic said. “I can’t express how lucky I was that that person stopped.”
He said he wants to be able to say ‘thank you’ to those who stepped up to help. On Tuesday night, one of those people contacted Vujnovic.
He said he wasn’t feeling any different that day and that the cardiac arrest came “out of the blue.”
While also searching for the person who stepped in to help, Vujnovic said he also wants to encourage others to take a CPR course.
Alberta Health Services says even if you don’t have formal CPR training, you can still save a life.
“If we could tell the public one thing about CPR, it’s to just do it,” said Alex Campbell, a public education officer with AHS EMS. “All you have to do to do CPR is to put your hands in the middle of someone’s chest and push as hard and as fast as you can.”
Campbell added no mouth-to-mouth is required. Compression-only CPR can make a major difference.
“Every minute you go without CPR, your chance of survival decreases exponentially,” Campbell said. “Every second counts.”
Campbelle said to also make sure to call 911.
For Vujnovic the stars aligned.
“Bystanders immediately recognize he’s in cardiac arrest and start CPR,” Campbell said. “The ambulance is there shortly after, that provides defibrillation, and then they are just down the road from one of the best cardiac centres in Canada.”
Vujnovic wasn’t carrying identification at the time. He was taken to the hospital and was sedated, alone, known only as John Doe.
His family searched frantically until 11:30 a.m. the next day. The runner is encouraging everyone who heads out to make sure they have proper ID so that other families aren’t put through the same stress.
EMS also said paramedics can check a person’s phone for information under the emergency lock screen.
Vujnovic is still sore from the incident. As for going back to running, the doctors say eventually he should be healthy enough to head back out, but probably not to the extent he was before.
In hospital, doctors performed an angioplasty and inserted an internal defibrillator in case it happens again.
“They say when it kicks you, it feels like a horse kick to the chest,” he laughed. “I’m going to try and stay away from that experience.”
The new grandfather says he won’t be wasting his “second life” and will enjoy time with friends and family, especially his six-week-old granddaughter. He’d only spent one week with her when the incident happened. He’s hoping for many, many more.
He’s also hosting a fundraiser, along with his friends, on Nov. 22 to say thank you to those who helped. Money raised will go to the Mazankowski Heart Institute and the Heart and Stroke Foundation.