Orrville woman alive today thanks to quick thinking of gym members and an AED

Updated: Feb. 6, 2023 at 6:00 PM EST
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ORRVILLE, Ohio (WOIO) - Linda Thompson was straight and to the point: “It was very frightening and I am just happy to be here.”

When she spoke, Thompson was standing in just about the same spot in Tillison’s Fitness Warehouse in Orrville where she had collapsed, in cardiac arrest, about two weeks earlier during an early morning workout, a workout the members call, “boot camp.”

The 62-year-old, who appears to be in very good health, was happy to recount what she had been through, a morning that started off for her anything but normal.

“Something was off and I didn’t feel right and I was wondering if I should go,” she said.

Thompson did go to the gym and decided to try and work her way through what she called, “a low energy day.”

But it was not just a low energy day. Thompson said there were warning signs that looking back on she just did not recognize or maybe just chose to ignore.

“My chest felt funny like I had a little bit of a warm feeling and my left arm felt kind of achy tired,” she said.

Surveillance video from the gym shows Thompson waiting her turn for the sled push, when all off a sudden, you can see her begin to get shaky on her feet, there’s a moment that she tries to steady herself, before she collapses.

“I just started feeling dizzy, I just started, everything got foggy, that’s the last thing I remember,” Thompson said.

Linda was down and the video shows that it took only seconds for the people in her class to rush over and check on her.

Melinda Budd, a former teacher and coach, was one of the first to Linda’s side.

“I went over and took her pulse, felt no pulse, and took it in a couple of different places, and there was no pulse,” she said.

Ryan McCallister, a former volunteer firefighter also stepped in, McCallister knew CPR and he knew the gym had an AED.

“I could tell she was in cardiac arrest and we needed to get CPR started right away and we needed to get that AED pulled of the wall and set up right away,” he said.

Linda Thompson is forever grateful to everyone who helped after she suffered cardiac arrest in...
Linda Thompson is forever grateful to everyone who helped after she suffered cardiac arrest in December at an Orrville gym.(Source: WOIO)

An AED is an automated external defibrillator and they save lives.

This one happened to be in Tillison’s Fitness Warehouse because McCallister’s wife, Karrie McCallister, teaches a fitness classes at the Orrville YMCA and also at one time at Tillison’s gym.

Following at a cardiac event a few years ago at the YMCA, she made the suggestion to Thad and Janette Tillison, the co-owners of the gym that they might want to invest in an AED.

They took that advice. Smart.

Janette hustled to get the AED and along with Thad they attached the 2 pads around Linda’s heart, while Ryan McCallister continued compressions.

The AED is built to analyze the patients needs.

“With Linda is advised a shock,” Ryan said.

Everyone cleared out of the way and Thad hit the shock button.

“Just like that Linda, she flinched and took a breath, it was amazing,” McCallister said.

Linda was back and while she doesn’t remember, she sat up and told the group, “at least I got you out of sled pushes.”

Linda is forever grateful to everyone who was there on that December morning, grateful that no one panicked and instead found a way to try and save her life.

She is particularly grateful that the gym owners, the Tillison’s decided a large out of pocket expense, that AED, was worth making.

In a gym stacked from floor to ceiling with equipment for a beginner to an experienced member, Thad Tillison’s is pretty sure he knows where his money was best spent.

“Without that AED, I think the outcome would have been totally different, to this day I say that was my best purchase for this gym,” Tillison said. “It’s the best feeling in the world to see her come in every morning she came in last Friday, 5:30 in the morning, walked through that door it was breathtaking she could have been gone.”

For Thompson, it has been an experience that has changed her life, doctors never, she said, found out exactly why she went into cardiac arrest, so she’s had a pace maker and defibrillator implanted in her chest.

And she realizes how close she came to losing her life.

“That’s the crazy part, just how close I came to not coming back out of this,” she said. “Just thanking God every day I am still here.”