After man collapses in gym, three off-duty responders jump into action

‘I’m really lucky to be where I was at that moment’

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Calgary’s acting fire chief recognized a local firefighter, police officer and nurse on Thursday for their off-duty efforts to save a man’s life a year ago during a fitness event.

During a CrossFit event at the Athletic Inside Performance gym in southeast Calgary in May 2022, Jason Wang had just tagged his partner back into the event after finishing burpees when his world went dark.

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Thirty-four-year-old Wang said he woke up to someone holding his head and calming him down, telling him to hold still. He looked down to see AED (automated external defibrillator) pads stuck to his chest.

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“That’s when it clicked that something had gone wrong and that I had been out for a period of time,” Wang said.

Firefighter Eric Adams was at the gym to support the athletes competing when he noticed Wang was in distress. Adams took Wang’s vitals and couldn’t detect a pulse.

Someone grabbed the gym’s AED and Adams got it going. With help from off-duty Calgary Police Service officer Jason Walliser and emergency room registered nurse Maddie Wilson, the three began life-saving efforts on Wang while 911 was called.

“We shocked him twice and were able to achieve a workable rhythm with his heartbeat,” said Adams.

Walliser, who was participating in the competition, jumped into his role as a police officer first, asking the crowded gym to clear space for them to work and for EMS crews when they arrived.

“And then I returned to assist with the first aid,” said Walliser.

He is grateful that he was recently recertified in CPR and AED operation, and felt the training was fresh in his mind as he worked alongside Adams and Wilson.

“To have something occur right in front of you isn’t an everyday occurrence. Sometimes it does, even for the best of us, take a moment to orient what’s going on,” Walliser said.

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Additional fire personnel arrived and administered oxygen and provided further care until Alberta Health Services EMS arrived.

Paramedics took Wang to Foothills Medical Centre, where he was tested and treated. His heart had stopped, and Wang said doctors still aren’t sure why.

“Because every second or third person who does CrossFit is a paramedic, firefighter, doctor or has some form of CPR training, I’m really lucky to be where I was at that moment,” said Wang.

“I’m really lucky and I’m going to live my life with great care and pride.”

Wang is back at the gym but isn’t training at the same level of intensity that he is used to.

“But that’s OK because I get to live a long life,” he said.

Wilson wasn’t able to attend the event at the gym on Thursday, where acting fire Chief Mark Turik recognized the three for their heroic efforts.

“I’m told all three rescuers remained calm and used their years of training,” said Turik. “We are incredibly glad that Jason is healthy and well.”

The gym owners were commended by Turik for keeping a working AED in their gym.

Adams said he’s fortunate to have received such excellent training through the Calgary Fire Department, and he encourages everyone to take a CPR course and learn to operate AEDs.

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“They’re a tool that assists with the life-saving process and it’s not expensive, but to give people the benefit and another chance is very valuable,” he said.

“You always want to help people and that doesn’t switch on or off.”

Walliser said it was great to see a positive outcome from what could have been a tragic health event.

“To be right there from the beginning and see a response and be able to help in that response was unique,” he said. “If I was to give a message to anybody it’s to learn CPR and AED operation. It’s a low frequency that you’ll use it but I find myself, more so now, when I go to a building I’m looking for the location of the AED.”

Jason Wang was reunited with Calgary police Sgt. Jason Walliser and firefighter Eric Adams, two of the first responders who helped restart his heart after he collapsed during a CrossFit competition a year ago.
Jason Wang was reunited with Calgary police Sgt. Jason Walliser and firefighter Eric Adams, two of the first responders who helped restart his heart after he collapsed during a CrossFit competition a year ago. Gavin Young/Postmedia


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