The evening of Friday, Oct. 14, 2022 started with a paddle tennis match that ended in a way neither Steve Farber, 56, nor Jon Gault, 51, could have predicted. Instead of battling it out on opposite sides of the court, they ended up fighting for the same thing: to save Steve’s life after sudden cardiac arrest.
Farber and Gault were on their third match of the evening and about 30-45 minutes into it when Farber fell to his knees then went down face first into the court.
“I got really dizzy as I was waiting for Jon to serve and everything went white,” Farber says. “In my mind, I put up my hand and said ‘wait a minute, guys’ and then rested on my knees.”
Having gone through cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and automated external defibrillator (AED) training, Gault knew something was wrong. He immediately dropped his paddle, ran across the court and yelled for someone to call 9-1-1.
“When I got to Steve, he was barely breathing and had an extremely weak pulse,” Gault says. “I started doing compressions right away and yelled for someone to get the AED. While doing compressions, I lost Steve’s pulse. But his pulse returned after using the AED, and he was able to talk again by the time the paramedics took over.”
All of this transpired within two minutes.
Farber was taken to Highland Park Hospital where he had a stent placed in his circumflex artery. Post-surgery, his doctor ran a few tests and placed a second stent in his left anterior descending (LAD) artery. He was able to return home on Tuesday and was back at Glenbrook South High School where he works as a high school math teacher the following Monday.
“My recovery is a testament to Jon,” Farber says. “He was so fast in responding, and I’m thankful he was just on the other side of the court. Thanks to him, I had little to no damage to my heart and no damage to my brain or cognitive function.”
For Gault, having the right skills to act as a first responder is a passion. He first received CPR training as a lifeguard in high school. Later he received EMT training and eventually worked in an emergency room as an ER tech. Today, he works in medical device sales.
“I think it’s so important to be prepared for these types of situations,” Gault says. “Thankfully, my training kicked in fast and I was able to jump right into CPR protocol to help Steve.”
Prompt CPR and AED application is truly a lifesaver in these types of situations. Every minute counts as neurologic damage begins about four minutes after the heart stops. Early, high-quality CPR to pump blood through the heart can double or triple a person’s chance of survival. Access to an AED to restart the heart is also critical as every minute that ticks by while the heart is stopped reduces the chance of survival by 10 percent.
“When people are able to apply CPR and an AED, we see amazing recoveries from people who are effectively dead,” says John Cram, Medical Simulation Program Manager with NorthShore University HealthSystem. “These skills make an impact on our communities and for the people we love. It can be the difference between the end of the road or going on to live a full life.”
“I can’t overemphasize this – every single person should know how to do CPR and use an AED,” Gault adds. “CPR training takes a little work, but it’s knowledge everyone should have. AEDs are straightforward and self-explanatory. People are afraid of them but they are simple to use.”
Today, Farber is in physical therapy and rehabilitation three days a week. During each one-hour session, he straps on an EKG device and exercises to make sure everything is working as it should.
“I’ve made a few changes to my lifestyle – getting more sleep and eating much better,” Farber says. “I’m trying to be as healthy as I can so I can get all of my (biometric) numbers back in line.”
Although Farber is no longer playing paddle tennis competitively, he and Gault plan to stay in touch and look forward to playing golf when the weather warms up.
“I’m so grateful Jon was there – it was his CPR and AED training that truly made a difference and saved my life,” Farber says.
“Thank god Steve is okay and that we had the proper equipment to save his life,” Gault adds.