Quick reaction from Wellness Center staff saves life

June 22, 2023

Noah Dodson, left, Larry Leray, and Julie Smith

Quick reaction from Wellness Center staff saves life

WSCC News is a presentation of West Shore Community College in partnership with Mason County Press. 

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief

VICTORY TOWNSHIP — The quick reaction of the staff and members of the West Shore Community College Wellness Center saved a life last month. Larry Leray, 72, of Grant Township, works out at the center three days a week. On May 15, 2023, about 10 a.m., he was on a treadmill. There were a few other members also working out. Julie Page Smith, director of the Wellness Center, was in her office, within earshot of the center. 

“Our staff is always attentive to what’s going on in the Wellness Center, gymnasium, weight room, or pool. Even if someone isn’t actually in one of those facilities, we are always monitoring.” 

From her office, Smith heard a loud thud, a sound she recognized as someone falling to the floor. 

“Right away I flew out of my office and headed into the center where I saw Jim, one of our members, standing over someone. I ran over and realized it was Larry and that it was a pretty serious situation. He was unconscious and wasn’t breathing. I initiated our EMS activation right away which included starting CPR, someone calling 911, staff positioning themselves to direct first responders and the ambulance to the proper building, and, probably most important, getting the AED (automated external defibrillator).”

Smith said every WSCC building has an AED. “The Recreation Center was the first building to have an AED and has had one for several years. More recently, every building was equipped with one,” she said. 

Noah Dodson, assistant director of the Wellness Center, grabbed the AED and prepared it while Smith performed chest compressions on Leray. 

“We have never used an AED on someone on campus,” Smith said. “All our staff has gone through extensive training and you always wonder when you will need to use it.” 

The AED will detect the heart rhythm of the patient. If a person is experiencing cardiac arrest, meaning the heart is fibrillating out of control, the device will shock the heart to help it re-establish an effective rhythm. According to the American Heart Association, a person’s chance of surviving a cardiac arrest drops by 7 to 10 percent every minute a normal heartbeat isn’t restored. Immediate CPR and defibrillation can double or triple a person’s chance of survival.

“After a few rounds of compression, we started the AED. Right away it said a shock was advised,” Smith said. 

Then, the miracle. 

“It shocked Larry and he came right to. Within seconds he sat up and said, ‘What is happening!? It was just amazing,” Smith said. “It was probably less than a minute from the time he had passed out to the time we shocked him. Just incredible.” 

Leray said he doesn’t remember anything that happened. He said he remembers being on the treadmill and feeling a little dizzy. Then, he remembers waking up and seeing Smith over him.

“We are so thankful for our training,” Smith said. “We are in a rural area and while we have great emergency services, it was several minutes before the fire department and ambulance arrived. There is not doubt that having the AED in the building saved Larry’s life.” 

Smith said several people assisted with helping Leray including John Williams, who was working at the Wellness Center at the time. 

Leray was transported by ambulance to Corewell Health Ludington Hospital and then later transferred to a hospital in Grand Rapids where he received an internal defibrillator. He said the cause of the issue was an imbalance in his potassium levels. 

“I have always been a strong believer that you need to be on top of your own health,” Leray said. “Doctors and other medical professionals are great at what they do, but you are ultimately responsible.” 

Within two weeks, Leray was back at the center working out again. He and his wife, Lorraine, presented the staff and members with a small gift and reminder of the save, a handmade bowl that is now always stacked with Lifesavers candies. 

“I am so thankful for everyone who helped, they truly saved my life,” Leray said. 

To learn more about the WSCC Wellness Center, visit www.westshore.edu. 

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