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Looking for a hero: Family wants to thank bystander who performed CPR

'He was such a fighter,' said one of the bystanders who jumped into action. 'CPR is intense and it hurts. But to keep that humanity in it, we were giving him so much love.'
Ed Kaczmarek's family is looking for the people who helped save his life when he suddenly went into cardiac arrest in Davis Bay on May 1.

One lucky family is looking to connect with everyone who helped a man who went into cardiac arrest in Davis Bay on May 1, so they can say thank you.

Sechelt resident Ed Kaczmarek was on his daily walk when he suddenly collapsed, landing on his face near the public washrooms on the Davis Bay seawalk. He doesn’t remember what happened next, so his family is trying to piece together that afternoon’s events. His daughters told Coast Reporter that, first, a woman’s dog alerted her to Kaczmarek lying on the ground. She called 911. 

Then two strangers jumped into action to perform CPR. 

Aili Dawson was on her way home from working as a nurse when she rounded the corner to the Davis Bay seawalk. That’s where she saw a man lying on the ground. She pulled over to find he was in cardiac arrest. 

Another bystander was already there trying to help. Dawson describes him as a man of Asian descent who is around 30 to 45 years old, who the family is still trying to find to thank. 

She said the two of them spoke to Kaczmarek as they performed CPR, encouraging him and letting him know they were going to help. 

“He was such a fighter,” Dawson said. “CPR is intense and it hurts. But to keep that humanity in it, we were giving him so much love.” 

BC Emergency Health Services said two ambulances responded to a call at 2:48 p.m. and transported a patient in critical condition. Firefighters also attended the scene. 

When Kaczmarek’s wife Rani saw the emergency vehicles as she waited for him, she thought her husband had stopped to help someone else. His daughters recall the many times it was Kaczmarek who helped others in need, once performing the Heimlich maneuver on another patron in a restaurant. But now he was the one in need of help, and first responders also supported Rani. 

“We had this really sweet sort of hug and tear and goodbye, but I didn't catch his name,” Dawson said of the other bystander. She hopes they can find him, to let him know of the difference he made.

A couple of hours later, Dawson heard a helicopter flying over her house. She knew if the man she’d helped was stable enough to fly, he had a good chance of survival. When she later heard from the family that Kaczmarek was alive and surrounded by loved ones, Dawson said it changed her life. 

“It’s an experience I’ll never forget.”

Many miracles

“One of the paramedics told my sisters that whoever performed CPR on my dad literally saved his life. Had somebody not performed CPR, he wouldn't be here today,” Kaczmarek’s daughter Angelique Yuen said. Her sister adds that the medical professionals told her the CPR had obviously been performed by someone who knew what they were doing.

Dawson takes annual CPR training courses for her nursing licence, and asks that people take a few minutes to review CPR techniques, and keep an eye out for AEDs (automated external defibrillators). “Don’t be afraid to stop and help,” she said.

Yuen made a post on Facebook to track down the people who were there that day.

“My head just went to whoever saved his life, I need to thank them. My family needs to thank them. We're forever grateful to them,” Yuen said. 

Everything they hear about the life-saving efforts seem like small miracles added together, his daughters said. “It wasn’t his time to go,” his daughter Carolyn said. “It’s karma. He is such a strong and helpful person that he’s getting all that karma back, and it’s showing up in miraculous ways.”

They’re grateful their father was in a more public area with passersby than his usual spot or at home. Ed and Rani moved to their dream home in Sechelt five years ago. 

“It just gives my sisters and I so much confidence and love that they're in a community that bands together like that,” Carolyn said. 

Feeling lucky

In the days leading up to May 1, Dawson had told her husband she was feeling lucky. She had such a strong feeling that something good was going to happen that she began buying lottery tickets. It wasn’t until later, when she was on the phone with the man’s family, that her husband said, “I think you just won the lottery,” Dawson recalls. 

“I just feel super blessed to have been in the right place at the right time for him,” Dawson said. 

As for Kaczmarek, while he’s still in the hospital, his daughters said he’s looking much more like himself. He thanks every person who treats him — and he’s looking forward to meeting his saviours when he can return home. 

“He wants to meet them all and just give them a hug,” Yuen said. “They are the reason he's here today. They are his angels.”

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