Friends, strangers help save life

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Susan Moody, Steve Crews and Atlanta Fitness Manager Jason Pelusi, from left, all had a hand in reviving a 53-year-old man who suffered a “sudden death” heart attack at the gym Jan. 15.

By ELIZABETH RICHARDSON erichardson@newnan.com One member experienced "a great comeback" at a local health club, and he has the quick response of friends and strangers to thank. Steve Crews is a trained first responder employed by local industry Yokogawa. On Jan. 15 he was following his routine of working out at the Newnan location of Atlanta Fitness (formerly Gold's Gym of Newnan) with his family and a fellow employee, who happens to be a 53-year-old male.
Crews and his friend are participating in a Yokogawa fitness challenge and usually work out daily during their lunch breaks, but on Thursdays they meet after work at the gym. On this particular evening, Crews' friend arrived a little later than Crews did -- about 6 p.m. -- and began his workout on the treadmill. Everything seemed normal. After a few minutes, Crews watched his friend enter an express workout room located in an isolated area of the club, and Crews stepped briefly into the men's locker room. Crews' friend luckily stepped into the room with certified Nurse Practitioner Susan Moody. Moody observed as Crews' friend began doing squats against the wall. Suddenly, he began to stumble and reached his arm out to catch himself as he collapsed to the ground. Moody made it to his side in time to break his fall, and Crews rushed into the room to assist. "He was out," said Moody. Her first thought was that it was a "sudden death" heart attack -- and she was right. Only, his story has a happy ending. Crews recalls calling out for his friend as he entered the room and his friend reaching out an arm for him as he lost consciousness. Crews and Moody worked together and, once they realized that he had no pulse, they began cardiopulmonary resuscitation -- or CPR. Jason Pelusi, the manager of Atlanta Fitness, was at work that evening. The gym keeps an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) at the front desk, and all employees are trained to use it. While Crews and Moody were performing CPR, another gym employee came and retrieved Pelusi and the AED. Crews has been a trained first responder for four years, but had never had to execute his skills in an actual emergency. Luckily -- "I didn't have a second thought about what to do." Moody, though she has had experience with emergencies, had never used an AED. So, she followed the step-by-step verbal commands given by the machine and shocked the unconscious man. Crews' detected a trace heartbeat before his friend "left again." Crews resumed chest compressions and rescue breathing until the machine charged up and advised another shock. After the second shock, Coweta County Emergency Medical Service responders with Vital Care Ambulance Service arrived on the scene and began treating the patient. It wasn't until Crews' friend was safely on the ambulance that Crews finally "melted." Moody admits she'd been shaking so hard throughout the response that she almost couldn't retrieve the AED from its zippered pouch. A short while after the ambulance departed, someone called Atlanta Fitness to inform Pelusi that the patient was stable and that the AED had saved his life. "The sooner you can get care, the better chance you have of surviving," said Moody. "Everybody should have an AED." According to Pelusi, Atlanta Fitness is not required to have an AED on-site, but the owners insisted they purchase one about a year ago. "We need to remember that it was Atlanta Fitness' decision to have an AED, and every business owner should consider having one," said Crews. Even the doctor who treated the victim -- also a member at the gym -- later told Pelusi that he was grateful for the AED because by the time the patient was in his care, he didn't have anything left to do. "The AED did it all," said Pelusi. Crews was ecstatic to get a call from his friend the following morning at work. Crews reports that he's "doing awesome" and planned to return to work Monday. It will be about a month before he's allowed to resume physical activity. He had a stint put in his heart Jan. 16, and a defibrillator put in his heart Jan. 20. Crews, his friend and Moody may not have known each other before all this, but they're all fast friends now. "We're just all very happy," said Moody.


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