This article can be found published on the Daily Local News‘ website and the Delaware County Daily Times‘ website.
DOWNINGTOWN — It had been roughly two months since Joseph Edwards had been to the Planet Fitness in Downingtown, but he returned to the gym on Jan. 15.
It just so happened that on this first visit back, in the middle of the afternoon on Friday, the man on the treadmill directly in front of him collapsed and went into cardiac arrest a mere 15 minutes into Edwards’ workout.
“He just collapsed and fell across three treadmills right in front of me,” Edwards said. “It startled me because I wasn’t expecting the person in front of me to just collapse.”
As the Deputy Fire Chief at the East Brandywine Fire Department, Edwards immediately jumped into action.
“I got off of my treadmill and went around to check on him,” he said. “I called for the Planet Fitness staff to dial 9-1-1 and bring an AED over to me.”
When Edwards checked for a pulse on the 61-year-old lying unconscious on the ground, he couldn’t find one. Using the automated external defibrillator, or AED, combined with CPR, Edwards was successfully able to regain a pulse.
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“I delivered a shock (with the AED) and did CPR for two minutes,” Edwards said. “I checked him and he had his pulse back and was starting to breathe on his own.”
Though he has been a firefighter for 36 years, it’s not usual for Edwards to see an emergency happen right in front of him during his off-duty hours.
“I’m not always the one on the end of the line waiting on 9-1-1 and help to arrive,” he said. “(In this situation), you just hope that you know what you’re doing is right and that you are successful in what you are trying to do for him.”
The Downingtown Fire Department and ambulance responded to Planet Fitness in quick fashion and took the victim to Brandywine Hospital, where he has been recovering.
To Edwards’s surprise, he received a call from the man Saturday morning from the hospital.
“Him and his family called me and said that he was doing OK,” Edwards said. “He told me he does face some further cardiac surgery, but for now, he’s talking, he’s alert and he’s joking.”
The Deputy Fire Chief is quick to say it wasn’t just him who saved the man’s life.
Instead, he said, it was a combination of multiple things going right, from himself to the Downingtown Fire Department responding immediately.
“I’m just fortunate to have been in the right place at the right time and to have the skills and mindset to help him,” Edwards said. “The whole system worked. Everything they tell you to do and teach you to do happened – dial 9-1-1, get an AED to the person as soon as you can and then do CPR right away.”
Even though he won’t take full credit, Edwards was touched by the phone call he received the following morning.
“The best feeling you can get is when the gentleman called me and his daughter got on the phone and thanked me,” he said. “When you do it so (much), a lot of times you don’t see who you helped or hear from who you helped. That just made it all worthwhile that you were able to make a difference and the person called you up to say thank you. Just to hear from the guy was tremendous.”