'Thrilled to be alive': Former MP Doug Eyolfson rescued by firefighter after heart attack during run

·2 min read
Dr. Doug Eyolfson says a critical artery was 80 per cent blocked when he suffered a heart attack while running in Vancouver on Monday. He believes he likely would have died if not for the intervention of an off-duty firefighter. (James Turner/CBC - image credit)
Dr. Doug Eyolfson says a critical artery was 80 per cent blocked when he suffered a heart attack while running in Vancouver on Monday. He believes he likely would have died if not for the intervention of an off-duty firefighter. (James Turner/CBC - image credit)

A Winnipeg doctor and former member of Parliament says he's grateful to an off-duty firefighter who likely saved his life after he suffered a sudden heart attack while on a run in Vancouver.

Dr. Doug Eyolfson, an emergency physician, was doing some marathon training on the sea wall in Vancouver's Stanley Park Monday when he suddenly collapsed.

"I remember making it to the other side of the park, and ... the next thing you know I was in hospital," Eyolfson, who was attending a conference in Vancouver, said in a Wednesday interview with CBC Manitoba's Up to Speed, just hours before coronary bypass surgery.

Eyolfson says heart issues run in his family — his father had the same surgery 25 years ago — but he had no warning before his own heart attack.

"I've always known never to ignore symptoms. I'm assuming this happened very suddenly."

The doctor, who was the Liberal MP for the Winnipeg riding of Charleswood-St. James-Assiniboia-Headingley from 2015 to 2019, says he was told an off-duty firefighter who was also out running started CPR and called 911.

He waited roughly 20 minutes for an ambulance to arrive.

"I got two shocks and that brought back my rhythm, and then they took me to St. Paul's Hospital," Eyolfson said.

Ben Nelms/CBC
Ben Nelms/CBC

He now knows he had an 80 per cent blockage of his left coronary artery — a type of blockage doctors sometimes refer to as "the widowmaker" — so he believes the efforts of the firefighter and the responding paramedics likely saved his life.

Without that, "I would be known as 'the dear departed,'" he said.

"I had no pulse. If he hadn't been there and started pounding on me and I hadn't been shocked, then, yeah, I would have died."

Now, "it's like the old movie quote – 'I'm just thrilled to be alive,'" said Eyolfson.

He hasn't yet spoken to the firefighter who saved his life, but Eyolfson wants to thank him for what he did.

"Once this is over, I want to talk with him. I definitely owe him a bottle of scotch."

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