Ajoy Puni almost lost his life seven months ago.
The 51-year-old suffered a massive heart attack while playing hockey. Doctors say technically he died on the ice, with his heart literally stopping.
“Obviously, it was tremendous shock learning about what happened, and then seeing what happened, because I saw video of it,” Puni said from his Montreal home.
Four quick-thinking teammates — including two doctors — sprung to action when Puni collapsed. They performed CPR and then used a defibrillator to restart his heart and save his life.
“I was extremely fortunate, when I look back at what took place, and you think about the things that lined up to be able to allow me to be here today,” Puni said.
Puni is one of the lucky ones. More than 35,000 people die of sudden cardiac arrest each year in Canada. Less than 10 per cent of cardiac arrest victims survive.
Medical professionals say that number could be much higher if more people knew CPR and how to use an automated external defibrillator, or AED.
“You can’t harm someone, you can only help just by getting to the floor and pushing hard and fast in the centre of a chest. You really can help save a life,” said Christina Skiadopoulos, a pediatric nurse practitioner student at McGill University.
Skiadopoulus is helping run McGill’s Restart a Heart Day. It’s part of World Restart a Heart, an international awareness campaign to educate people about CPR and AED use. She helped host virtual events all week, educating the McGill population on the importance of learning CPR.
“Our goal is to really educate the population about the importance of resuscitation, to enhance their CPR knowledge and skills. We hope to empower them to be able to react,” she said.
The students worked alongside doctors for the awareness week.
“Acting in the moment can double or triple the chances of that person’s survival,” said Dr. Farhan Bhanji, a professor of pediatric critical care at McGill University. “Everything we do in hospitals can make a difference. Nothing is that big as what you do in those first couple of minutes.”
Rose Bloom knows just how true that is. Her 15-year-old son Jacob Dawes went into sudden and unexplained cardiac arrest playing hockey last year.
“He just fell to the ground. His colour changed. When someone has a cardiac arrest they go grey, and that was the sign that things were not OK.”
Jacob survived his dramatic and extraordinary ordeal, with bystanders performing CPR and using a defibrillator.
His family now advocates for people to learn CPR.
“My message is go and get CPR training,” Bloom said. “You just have no idea how lucky we feel that we were surrounded by the right people. The stars could not have aligned better.”