Heroes save Pickleball player

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Monday, August 5, 2019 - 1:09pm

Perinton resident Mike Medden came into the Perinton Community Center June 10 to play Pickleball with his friends. Little did the retired principal know he would leave unconscious on a stretcher after a heart attack.

“I was healthy, no indications of clogged arteries,” Medden said. “I was stunned when I woke up in the hospital. It is spooky. Makes you feel vulnerable.”

Medden was at the net ready to play mixed doubles with his regular senior group when he blacked out and, according to witnesses, “dropped like a board” hitting the back of his head on the floor.

Eileen Midavine, a retired registered heart and lung nurse, was in the pickleball group. She knew what was going on immediately and started attempts to revive him.

“This was not my first rodeo,’’ she said. “I knew it was a heart attack and I knew he was in trouble.”

Within moments Recreation Supervisor Mike Clark, Lifeguard Lieutenant Paul Kelly and Pool Supervisor Laura Silins were notified and responded to the scene and began to work on Medden.

As Midavine called Medden’s wife, Clark, who is a certified EMT, started doing chest compressions.

“I knew he was in trouble, I knew I had to keep his blood circulating,” Clark said. “We all just got tunnel vision, kind of like when you play a sport. I had no experience with a cardiac emergency, but we all knew what to do.”

Silins, who as the PCC Pool Supervisor oversees all lifeguards and their training, began administering rescue breaths until they realized Medden’s beathing passage was blocked, most likely from hitting his head on the floor when he collapsed. She began to prepare to administer the oxygen while Kelly prepared the suction device to drain Medden’s mouth of fluids to allow air to flow.

Kelly, who trains and certifies the lifeguard staff and is also serving as a member of the New York Army National Guard, hooked Medden up to the AED and administered him a shock. His heart started and he was breathing for about 10 seconds before his heart stopped again. Clark continued CPR for two more minutes until the AED was ready to evaluate again.

Kelly administered a second shock and Medden started to breathe on his own. As the group began to stabilize him, EMT’s arrived and took over.

Medden was taken to the hospital, where he later had double bypass surgery. He is recovering well and has been told he is probably in better shape now “with all new pipes.”

He said he awoke in the hospital a few hours later and had to ask his wife what happened.

“The doctors said if I had been home mowing the lawn, I would have died,” Medden said. “They said all the help I got right after saved me. Eileen played a huge role by spotting the symptoms right away.”

The recreation staff is used to emergencies in the PCC. Lot of calls for sprained ankles, jammed thumbs, and cuts and bruises. This was different from the start.

“We flowed well as a team,” Kelly said. We are all certified and prepared for situations like this. Even though all three of us had never worked together on a cardiac emergency, we meshed.

“There isn’t really time to feel emotions, just react and let the training take over. Once the EMT guys took over it was a good feeling to know the training and equipment works and that it makes a difference.”

Silins said she knew this was more serious than the typical injury at the facility once Kelly and she received the phone call about an emergency in the gym.

“He was turning purple so we didn’t have time to think about the situation,” she said. “I wasn’t really relieved until he came back to visit a few weeks later.”

Recreation Director Jeff Nutting was off the day of the incident, but he couldn’t be more proud of how his staff performed.

“I was alarmed, but not shocked by the outcome,” he said. “Clearly our training worked. You never know how you are going to react in the moment, but the way they all followed through was very impressive.”

Town Supervisor Ciaran Hanna was also impressed.

“I am so proud of our staff and the way they handled this situation,” Hanna said. “They were properly trained and they utilized that training and executed it perfectly under pressure. Just a terrific outcome.

“It was great to see Mr. Medden visiting his pickleball group a few short weeks after this incident. We will be delighted to have Mr. Medden back on the courts when he is ready.”

Medden retired 12 years ago as a principal in the Pioneer School District southeast of Buffalo. He and his wife Cathy moved to Fairport seven years ago. They have three adult children and seven grandchildren.

“Something like this makes you slow down and think about family and friends,” Medden said. “I just want to get back to playing golf and back to playing Pickleball. Then I will be a very happy person.”