This past Sunday started out well for Chilliwack resident Mel McKeen.
Despite having a mild heart attack the week before, the 74-year-old was feeling energetic and outgoing. He told his family he would be heading out for a meal at one of his favourite restaurants, with one of his best friends.
Somewhere in Chilliwack, two nurses made the same plans. Unknown to each other, the two parties enjoyed their meals at different sides of the restaurant. Then, out of the blue, McKeen suffered another heart attack.
Without any warning, with no obvious signs of distress, he just fell over. His friend called out for an ambulance to be called, alerting the two nurses to the situation. They performed CPR immediately while paramedics made their way to the restaurant, C Lovers Fish and Chips. Tricia Mercer, McKeen’s next of kin, was also called right away. She arrived as paramedics worked on McKeen.
“The paramedics were there when I arrived,” she said. “They were working so hard on him, they were all sweating, there was the life support team, ALS, everybody.”
But as the paramedics took over the scene, and Mercer’s concern was on McKeen’s well-being, she never got to thank those nurses. Now, she’s hoping to get in touch with them to let them know how much they’re appreciated.
“I just think think that there are so many bad stories that get out there and the nurses really take the brunt of it,” she said. “But they’re heroes. They did it. They saved him. I don’t know if they realize that, if they just think it’s the job they do and it comes automatically.”
McKeen will have a long road to recovery, Mercer said. He has numerous health concerns, including COPD, the prior heart trouble, and a stroke in his past. Over the last while, he’d been in and out of the ER numerous times, unwell.
“I know he’s really sick still, but without them, he wouldn’t even have a chance,” she said.
Even the paramedics did an amazing job, she added.
“The paramedics stayed at the hospital with him for a long time,” she said. “They were just really helpful and they all said, if those two nurses weren’t there we would have been looking at a completely different scenario.”
She said the heart attack took them all by surprise.
“Yesterday (Sunday) he was actually feeling really good,” she said. “He sounded chipper and happy and he said he was going to go out to C Lovers. He just ate his food, he was normal the entire time, and then he just fell over. There was no indication he was not well.”
McKeen has no blood relatives close to him, Mercer said. But the community has embraced him and everyone has come to know him as family. When McKeen suffered a stroke a few years ago, the Mercer family decided to take him in and give him a better chance at recovery.
“He is a father figure to us, and my kids call him grandpa,” she said. “He’s an amazing man and he’s touched a lot of people’s lives in this community. I’m forever grateful for him. He has a very extended family in the community that love him very much. He is really special to a lot of people.”
McKeen was under sedation in hospital on Monday, waiting to be transported to Royal Columbian.
“He’s not out of the woods yet,” Mercer said, but doctors have said he has good neurological function, due to the quick administration of CPR.
Mercer said the whole event has spurred her on to brush up on her outdated first aid training.
“I’m not sure I would have known what to do if I was there,” she said. “I’m just so glad they were there.