SOUTHINGTON — Al-bert Stavidlo used to complain to his wife, Anita, that turning 39 meant he was getting old. After suffering a heart attack last month, his outlook has changed.
“Now I’m happy I’m going to be 39,” he said.
He also realizes that he probably wouldn’t be celebrating any more birthdays if it wasn’t for the efforts of the Southington-Cheshire YMCA staff on Jan. 14. Employees used an automated external defibrillator on Stavidlo after he collapsed in the weight room. The defibrillator sends an electric shock to the heart if it doesn’t detect a beat.
On Friday, Stavidlo and his family visited the YMCA staff.
“I just want to thank you guys, all of you, I’m speechless,” Stavidlo said.
“We’re just happy to see you,” said Tony Palmieri the YMCA’s director of operations.
“It’s a relief,” said Chris Prus, a YMCA staffer and the first to help the fallen Stavidlo.
That Tuesday afternoon, Stavidlo dropped his eighth-grade daughter, Claudia, off at the Southington Library and his 4-year-old daughter, Angelica, at the YMCA kids care before working out.
He was going to exercise for 45 minutes and head home. Plans changed when the healthy 38-year-old, with no history of heart problems, was lying on the weight room floor with no pulse.
“My heart was the last thing I expected,” said Stavidlo. At his last physical a year ago tests on his heart came back healthy.
Prus was exercising when he noticed Stavidlo on the ground and unresponsive. He checked for a pulse and when he couldn’t find one, yelled for the defibrillator.
John Ryan, a trainer at the YMCA, and Becky Thompson, a staff member, jumped in to help.
“I hooked up the AED,” Prus said. “I shocked him then we started CPR. The EMTs arrived, by that time we got the heart beating and him breathing again.”
Prus said if the YMCA didn’t have the AED, a device purchased 10 years ago, he wasn’t sure if Stavidlo would have lived.
“I think we were really calm, we stayed with what we had to do,” Ryan said. “It was a shock when he started breathing again.”
Stavidlo spent a week in the hospital recovering and is on limited activity for the next couple months. As a precaution, Stavidlo had an internal defibrillator implanted that will react as the portable AED did if his heart stops beating or is not in rhythm.
“My doctor said this might never happen, but this is a backup just in case,” Stavidlo said.
Anita Stavidlo, his wife, cried when hugging the people that saved her husband’s life.
“Thank you for everything,” she said. “Thank you so much.”
Barbara Glaude, the aquatics director at the YMCA, is also in charge of the administering the CPR and first aid training classes for staff. After the incident, she received text messages from Thompson and other staff members thanking her for the training.
“Until you’re put to the test, you don’t know how you’re going to respond,” Glaude said. “I always told the staff the AED will work, just follow the directions.”
Stavidlo is eager to resume his exercise routine.
“We’ll be waiting for you,” said John Myers, executive director of the YMCA.
“I won’t cause too much commotion the next time,” Stavidlo said laughing.