How a ‘stroke of luck’ helped an Ontario councillor who collapsed during meeting

automated external defibrillator (AED) file photo. Global News

A Midland, Ont., council meeting came to an abrupt ending Wednesday night when a councillor, and former mayor, collapsed.

During the March 22 council session, and as it neared 8 p.m., Coun. Jim Downer’s head slumped onto his desk – he passed out while councillors discussed a motion.

“It is not a normal thing in our council chambers, especially while we were mid-debate, and immediately, one of the other councillors, Coun. Sheldon East, literally jumped into action,” said Midland Mayor Bill Gordon.

“Councilor Downer was brought down onto the floor. We were trying to revive him effectively and see if he was conscious. By an absolute stroke of luck, our fire chief, who also has paramedic training, was in the room, and we have a defibrillator in council chambers, so pre-EMS began almost immediately.”

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Mayor Gordon expressed relief that there were people there with training to provide immediate support.

Fire Chief Richard Renaud went to assist while 911 was called. CPR was started, and the Public Access Defibrillator applied, Renaud said in a statement.

“From a medical emergency standpoint, you couldn’t have asked for a better turnout,” Gordon said.

Renaud said in a statement Downer regained consciousness after what appeared to be his internal defibrillator went off and remained conscious as he left town hall.

Simcoe County Paramedics transported him to Georgian Bay General Hospital in Midland.

Mayor Gordon said on Thursday afternoon that the councillor’s family has said “he’s stable and awake and resting in ICU at GBGH with his family.”

“The quick actions of Councillor East, along with the rapid response by all three emergency services, gave councillor Downer a fighting chance. Councillor East not only recognized that councillor Downer was in distress, he also actively performed CPR while the Public Access Defibrillator was being applied,” said Renaud.

“His actions, along with the rapid response by firefighters, police and paramedics, all contributed to this positive outcome.”

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Renaud is taking this medical emergency as an opportunity to remind the public of the importance of learning First Aid, CPR and how to use a Public Access Defibrillator (AED).

Click to play video: 'CPR Training and AED Awareness'
CPR Training and AED Awareness

Gordon said while they can have some animated meetings, this is the first time he can remember an incident like this.

“With some of the heavy conversations we have in there, it’s really not a shock. It’s heavy, a lot of work, and it takes a toll on your body in municipal politics.”

Downer has been a fixture in local politics for some time, having served as a councillor in Midland for several terms and also having been the former mayor.


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