His life saved - now helping save others

Al Klar has no memory of that June day in 2021 when he suffered a heart attack, but it’s a day his family and two “guardian angels” will never forget. Klar was at work at his Range Rider Canopies business on June 21 of last year when, without warning, a heart attack left him unconscious in a chair in his Summerland office. Darren Krell was one of two district bylaw officers who just happened to be at the business when Klar went into medical distress. “One of his (Klar’s) employees went in to get him for us and she came out panicking saying he was passed out in his chair,” said Krell, who was at the business with fellow bylaw officer Dan Maya. The pair immediately swung into action administering CPR as per their first aid training. “We got him down on the floor and started doing chest compressions and, of course, called 911. “It was just an incredible response from the BC Ambulance Service and they were able to get the defibrillator on him and brought him back. I honestly didn’t think he was going to come back, it’s amazing how these defibrillators work,” said Krell. Paramedics arrived in mere minutes taking over Klar’s treatment. That involved administering a single shock from the automated external defibrillator (AED) which successfully resuscitated Klar and giving him a new lease on life. Klar was taken to Penticton Regional Hospital and then to the cardiac unit of Kelowna General Hospital where he underwent bypass surgery. Exactly one month later, to the day, he was released from hospital fit as a fiddle. As a measure of his thanks to all of those who helped him, Klar purchased what is the Okanagan’s first outdoor AED that he helped unveil Friday morning at Memorial Park. “This is my home, I’ve been part of the community for 40 years and this is the least I could do,” said Klar. “In the future, if things like this happen, this machine will be available in this town and if it helps save lives, I will donate another one.” While he doesn’t remember that particular day, he has been filled in by others. “I guess I was just making some business calls and suddenly I passed out and they (bylaw officers) were angels to me,” said Klar. “Because of these two gentlemen, I started getting oxygen right away, so my heart was never without oxygen. “They saved my life. If they had not been around, I would not be talking to you now. I would not be here with my wife and my daughter and my grandson and there are just no words to say how thankful I am for what they did for me and my family. Somebody up there was giving me the help I needed on time — it was just minutes.... just minutes.” City staff, elected officials and other dignitaries were at the unveiling of the AED including Bev Smith of the Kelowna St. John’s Ambulance and outgoing Summerland mayor Toni Boot. “This generous donation will benefit our community greatly,” said Boot. “We are fortunate to have two ambulances, but should an ambulance not be readily available, this AED LaunchPAD Stand could make all the difference in surviving cardiac arrest. “On behalf of council I again thank you Mr. Klar for your generosity.” The machine, valued at more than $10,000 will be available year-round and emits an audible alarm when opened. It is located in the park near the intersection of Wharton Street and Kelly Avenue.

Mark Brett, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Penticton Herald