Weathering the Storm - An Affair of "the Heart"

In the late afternoon of January 30th, 2015, Keith Switzer, Vancouver Curling Club member, Past- President, Honourary Life-time Member and accomplished curler, suffered a heart attack at the Peace Arch Curling Club during the Provincial Mixed Doubles Championships.

Originally perceived as a slip, key individuals quickly responded and ascertained that Keith's heart was no longer beating. Within 45 seconds CPR was started by Scott Mol, head ice official at the time. Scott was on the other side of the rink when Keith fell, and responded in seconds due to excellent radio communication from the on-ice officials. Simultaneously, Shelley Birston, a registered nurse and curling compatriot of Keith's (in VCC's Thursday Open League) rushed to the scene from the viewing lounge and assisted Scott by providing oxygen. Moments later, Kent Bird, Club Manager called 911 and arrived with the Club's AED (automated external defibrillator) which Della Bird (also a registered nurse) prepped, utilizing the AED shocks to "restart" Keith's heart.

Early CPR, air administration, and two rounds of shocks was vital to Keith regaining consciousness. He thought he had slipped, knew he was curling, and was ready to start the next end -- with or without clothes (his shirt was cut to deliver treatment). With some convincing, Keith stayed on the ice until the ambulance arrived, six to eight minutes later.

What started as a day of competitive curling unfolded in a way that has become a model of how to be prepared and respond to, such an emergency.

On Tuesday November 17th, 2015, Scott Mol, Shelley Birston, and Della Bird were honoured with a St. John Ambulance National Lifesaving Award and credited for saving Keith's life. Keith remains incredibly grateful to Scott, Shelley and Della for their quick and effective response and appreciates the concern, support, and contributions of many others who were present at Peace Arch Curling Club on that day.

Keith has since undergone treatment and surgery (done with state-of-the-art techniques at VGH in February) and is recovering very well. He began the curling season this September, just eight months after his heart-attack.

The Vancouver Curling Club is also grateful to Scott, Shelley, Della and the curling community for their timely and informed actions that day. The VCC is thankful that Keith continues to curl and support the VCC through his generous donation of time and professional council.

An AED is located at the Vancouver Curling Club, on the ice shed level, next to the elevator. VCC staff has been trained in its use to respond to similar incidents should they (heaven forbid) arise.