Six years ago, Steve Laing was a couple of minutes into his workout when his heart stopped beating. He was only 39 years old.
“I suffered a cardiac arrest,” Steve says. “I was dead for 17 minutes.”
“I don’t remember anything from that day,” he adds.
Luckily, there was a former-cardiac nurse at the gym who jumped in to help, performing CPR for about 12 minutes until the fire department arrived, defibrilliating or paddling him four times until his heart started again. He was rushed to Vancouver General Hospital (VGH) where he was put in a medically induced, cooling-of-the-brain coma with the hopes of preventing brain damage. The next day, however, he opened his eyes to the joy of his family and was at VGH for 21 days. About three months after he was discharged, Steve was back at the gym.
Astonishingly, he has no heart issues or family history of heart issues and he was in above-average shape.
“I was running lots, I was going to boot camp, I was playing sports five or six times a week – it was completely out of left field,” he says, shaking his head. “I’m active, I don’t do drugs or smoke… I never thought this could happen in a million years.”
After numerous tests on his heart, doctors could not find an explanation for Steve’s cardiac arrest.
“It is unknown at this point and it may never be known – his heart just stopped working the way Mother Nature intended it to,” says Dr. Graham Wong, Steve’s cardiologist and director of the Coronary Care Unit at VGH. “It’s a mystery…we put him through the diagnostic wringer and couldn’t find anything.”
Dr. Wong says it’s “very unusual” for a person of Steve’s age and physical shape to suffer from something like this.
“It’s pretty rare. Only 55 out of 100,000 people suffer from cardiac arrest. A lot of those people are older or in bad shape.”
Of those 55 cases, Dr. Wong adds, less than 10 per cent survive and leave the hospital.
“He’s very lucky,” Dr. Wong says. “I credit Steve’s age, the timing of the CPR and defibrillating as well as the cooling technology and care at VGH to his survival and incredible recovery.”
These days, Steve, who, in 2004, helped found the popular Urban Recreation in Vancouver (“I love sports and I love organizing events and leagues – Urban Rec is a natural extension of that.”), is back to his active self (he plays sports, does boot camp and runs 30 to 40 kilometres a week), but he still thinks about it occurring again.
“It’s like it never happened,” he says. “But I always think about it and never take for granted my second chance at life. I’ve always been pretty positive and this just accentuated the positivity in my life.”