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Okanagan teachers awarded for saving life of teen in cardiac arrest

Two high school teachers in the South Okanagan were recognized on Tuesday for their heroic actions in saving the life of a teenager who had gone into cardiac arrest.

BC Emergency Health Services honoured South Okanagan Secondary School teachers Steve Podmorow and Mike Russo with a Vital Link Award for performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on 13-year-old student Dilshaan Dhaliwal.

Dhaliwal collapsed after going into sudden cardiac arrest in the gymnasium on Jan. 30.

Podmorow and Russo were trained in CPR by paramedics at BC Emergency Health Services through a program with the Advanced Coronary Treatment (ACT) Foundation.

WATCH (Aired Feb. 1): Two Okanagan teachers are being called heroes for saving a student’s life

Two Okanagan teachers are being called heroes for saving a student’s life.
Two Okanagan teachers are being called heroes for saving a student’s life.
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The automated external defibrillator (AED) used in the rescue was also donated to the school by the ACT Foundation.

John Warren, chief paramedic, presented the instructors with their award in front of hundreds of students, who packed into the Venables Theatre for the special ceremony.

“I don’t consider myself a hero,” Podmorow told Global News after the event.

READ MORE: B.C. teen grateful that CPR-trained teachers, AED saved his life

“I wish that if anyone was put in that situation, that they would do the same thing,” Podmorow said.

Dhaliwal, who has a known heart condition, is expected to make a full recovery.

He expressed a debt of gratitude from his hospital bed at B.C. Children’s Hospital on Feb. 4.

“If it wasn’t for the AED machine and the teachers being able to jump in so quick, without any thinking, and being able to start CPR and using the AED, I probably wouldn’t be alive right now,” he said.

WATCH (Aired Feb. 7): Okanagan student released from hospital after suffering cardiac arrest in gym class

Okanagan student released from hospital after suffering cardiac arrest in gym class
Okanagan student released from hospital after suffering cardiac arrest in gym class

Tuesday’s ceremony was also an opportunity for the instructors to reconnect with emergency personnel involved in the rescue.

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“I spent a lot of time with the 911 person on the other end, walking us through it,” Podmorow said.

On the other end of that phone call was 911 dispatcher Dionne Van Wikj. The pair met for the first time in person at the ceremony.

READ MORE: Which Okanagan schools have AEDs? Access varies wildly throughout region

“It feels pretty special. You hear people on the phone all of the time and you don’t really ever get to meet them in person so it’s kind of a little bit surreal for me to be able to see these people and how great they acted,” she said.

Paramedics who rushed to the scene were also recognized for their efforts.

“After being in the service for a couple of years, there are not a lot of calls that can get your blood going and your adrenaline pumping. When the call came in on our (computer-aided dispatch), my heart stopped,” said paramedic Krystal Parry.

The humble educators shied away from the spotlight, but in the eyes of their students, they are real-life heroes.

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