Colin James Lewis doesn’t remember anything about his own death.
But on Monday night, the 73-year old husband, father and grandfather was grateful to stand beside the Abbotsford Fire and Rescue chief and mayor at city hall and hand out commendations to the six men responsible for saving his life.
Lewis was travelling in a van with his wife Jaqueline, daughter Sharon and son-in-law Steve Stewart on April 17 when without warning, he went into full cardiac arrest.
Stewart’s first thought was to continue driving to the hospital but his wife said there was no time.
Stewart pulled the van into the parking lot of the Sevenoaks Alliance Church on Gladwin Road and immediately phoned 911 while trying to see to Lewis and manage the rising panic of his wife and mother-in-law.
Abbotsford resident Steve Parks was killing 10 minutes in the same parking lot after spontaneously deciding to go pick up his daughter at a nearby school that day.
Parks hadn’t been there a minute before noticing the commotion coming from a van nearby.
He ran to the scene to see Lewis slumped in the back seat.
The two men hauled Lewis – who was blue with no pulse – out of the vehicle and onto the pavement.
Fortunately for Lewis, both Parks and Stewart had just completed or renewed their first aid CPR training within the last four months. Stewart, a former volunteer firefighter, started chest compressions while Parks got air into their victim’s lungs.
Although Stewart had managed emergency situations before, dealing with a family member was nerve rattling.
Parks, who had never had to put his CPR skills to the test, was completely panicked that the man in front him might perish.
“Oh my God. This guy is dying,” he thought.
“Don’t die in front of me.”
But regardless of his interior dialogue, Parks’ reactions were automatic.
He fell into his training protocols, even hearing his instructor’s voice in his head.
As is common with effective CPR, the two men cracked seven of Lewis’ ribs as they worked to save him.
Lewis’s luck did not stop with his initial two rescuers.
An Abbotsford Fire Rescue crew doing driver training happened to be just a few blocks away when the 911 call came in.
Fire Capt. Jim Durvin and firefighters Tom Dodd, Scott Ellis and Greg Herron descended on the parking lot and relieved Parks and Stewart.
Chest compressions continued and a plastic airway tube was fed into Lewis’ throat.
Soon after, he got two high-voltage jolts from a portable defibrillator.
Lewis gagged, the plastic airway tube flew out of his mouth and his eyes popped open.
“What’s going on?” he asked.
Lewis ended up in Royal Columbibian Hospital where he underwent five hours of emergency bypass surgery.
He woke up a couple of days later with no memory of what had happened.
His surgeon was amazed at his patient’s recovery and attributed it to the early intervention Lewis received.
Jacqueline wrote to the fire department to thank them for the best Mother’s Day gift possible.
The actions of her son-in-law and her husband’s other rescuers mean the couple has the chance to celebrate their 50th anniversary.
“We’re so grateful he has a second opportunity for a chance at life and to see his grandchildren grow up,” said Jacqueline.
“We just have so many more things we’d like to do.”
Steve Parks still finds it emotionally overwhelming to recall the day Lewis came back to life.
He’s uncomfortable with people describing him as a hero.
“I’m just an average Joe that gets through life,” he said.
“I didn’t save his life. I was a part of a big group of people who saved his life.”
Walking on stage to get his commendation from Lewis was surreal.
“The picture in my head is him lying on the ground,” said Parks.
It was God’s will all the pieces of the puzzle were in place to save Lewis, said Parks.
His new friend Steve Stewart wholeheartedly agrees it was fate, not coincidence.
“I’m a firm believer we get put in places where we need to be,” said Stewart.
“Steve picked up his daughter at school that day. I was put in that van for a reason.
“Some people don’t believe that, but thankfully, I do.”
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