By GARY POPP
Quick, clear thinking led two 22-year-old Planet Fitness employees to get high praise from Clarksville firefighters this week.
Braxton Carver and Kayla Smith were presented with Outstanding Community Service award plaques by Clarksville Firefighters Union 2594 on Tuesday after saving a man’s life at the Lewis and Clark Parkway fitness facility.
In the last week of February, at about 1:30 a.m., a man running on a treadmill machine suffered an unidentified cardiac episode that left him lying on the ground and unresponsive.
“He was seizing and just going nuts and turning pale, so I told Kayla to go get the defibrillator, and I called 911,” Carver said. “Everything after that is pretty much a blur.”
Carver and Smith had received training as Plant Fitness employees to use the defibrillator. Carver said other patrons alerted her and Smith of the man’s dire condition, and they automatically went into response mode.
After approaching the patron, Carver said couldn’t find a pair of scissors to cut the man’s shirt, so she just lifted it up so she could attach the two sticky ends of the defibrillator on man’s chest and the side of his torso. As the employees were applying the defibrillator, Smith said the man’s body had turned purple, then white. After the defibrillator’s screen read “shock advised,” she pushed its button, which activated the shock, causing the man’s chest to be raised off the ground.
“After that, he kind of fluttered a little bit and then he was good,” Carver said. “We haven’t seen him since.”
The two explained that the man no longer comes to the Planet Fitness during there nighttime shifts, but he is known to have returned to workout at other times of the day.
Although paramedics had arrived, the man refused hospitalization, despite the recommendation from professionals, Carver and Smith said. Smith said after the man came to, she had to tell him that he was shocked by the defibrillator.
“I told him, ‘I had to shock you. You need to go [with paramedics].’ He said he didn’t want to go,” Smith said, adding that the man, literally, ran out the door and drove away.
Smith and Carver both said the incident was something they never thought would happen to them.
“Taking that class, you pay attention, but you never thought you would use what they teach you,” Smith said of the medical training. “It was definitely a totally different experience doing it on an actual person than doing it on a test dummy.”
While Carver and Smith are happy to have been able to save the life of the patron, they each said the incident was a traumatizing experience. Carver said once more time passes he may be able to appreciate more the service he and Smith provided, but for now he feels uneasy with the memory of the image of the man on the brink of death.
“You can’t help but to think about all the what-ifs, like, what if things didn’t go as well as they did?” Carver said. “It’s just terrifying. I don’t know how firemen and EMT people do it full-time. They need [to get paid] more money, for sure.”
The firemen Smith now has more respect for were at the business Tuesday to honor the quick-thinking employees.
Clarksville Fire Department Lt. Brandon Skaggs — president of the city’s firefighters’ union — was one of the eight firefighters who presented the awards outside of Planet Fitness.
“We think it is a great asset for the community and guests that come into our community to have medically trained businesses and employees,” Skaggs said. “To save another life is a great, great service to the community.”
Skaggs said Plant Fitness is deserving of credit for training their employees to be able to stay calm and react to a situation is the fashion they did.
“We want to recognize people in the community now who are actually being courageous enough to take on those responsibilities and render aid to others,” Skaggs said.