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Tom’s wake-up call

Sherie Holder-Olutayo

Tom’s wake-up call

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Tom and Penny Shainline have had a love affair with Barbados that started when they honeymooned here in 1971 – and it has blossomed and blossomed since then.
In fact, after coming on frequent visits they decided to purchase a time share at the Crane Resort. While they enjoy their annual visits, little did the couple know this one would be a test of their faith and fortitude as a couple.
It had started as a typical vacation for the couple.
“We had just finished lunch and then my husband Tom had a sneezing fit and started making funny noises,” Penny said.
Penny was especially concerned because Tom’s doctors in Canada had diagnosed him with sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder characterized by abnormal pauses in breathing during sleep. Each pause in breathing, called an apnea, can last from a few seconds to minutes and may occur five to 30 times an hour.
“He got over the sneezing, and about ten to five he went to the bathroom and bolted the door while he showered,” she said.
Penny, who was seated outside the bathroom playing a computer game, could hear everything.
“When the water was turned off I heard him making the sleep apnea noise,” she recalled. “It reached my comfort level and then I called his name thinking I could break his train of thought but he didn’t answer. Then I pushed the doors I saw in enough, I could see him lying there. I stepped back and tried to kick in the door, and then I called for help.”
At that point Penny was frantic and ran next door to her friends to get help who came.
“He kicked in the door and he was lying there. It was obvious he was gone – his face was blue-grey,” Penny recalled. “We grabbed his legs and Bob Shute started doing compression. I wasn’t sure what to do because CPR never entered my mind. I ran back to the phone and told the operator to call an ambulance. Then the Crane response team came and then Shane Gibson, the duty manager started doing compressions and Amanda Evelyn, who is also a nurse, started doing the breathing. They had brought a defibrillator and they shocked him. It was in Amanda’s estimation almost ten minutes before they started bringing him back. We would have a breath and then nothing.”
A defibrillator is a life-saving machine that gives the heart an electric shock in some cases of cardiac arrest.
The ambulance from the Sparman Clinic also arrived and Tom was taken there for tests and treatment.
“I wasn’t feeling bad initially. I just went in and had a shower,” Tom said recounting the experience. “I was going to the handbasin to brush the little bit of hair I had left and then the next thing I know I’m on a stretcher. To me I was walking even though I knew I was strapped down.”
After a CAT scan, a lung scan and a host of other tests, the results were finally revealed to the couple.
“Tom suffers from sudden death syndrome and it can happen any time in his life,” Penny said Dr Sparman told them.
“He actually had cardiac arrest and was dead,” Dr Sparman revealed. “We put in a defibrillator in his chest so that it wouldn’t happen again.”
The sleep apnea diagnosis though was nothing new for Tom. “I was first diagnosed back in 1996. Truthfully, there is nothing to manage. My wife just tells me that I snore like crazy. I had laser surgery to correct the condition. There is nothing that tells you have sleep apnea. I can nod off.”
“I went to a sleep apnea clinic back in Toronto five years ago and I thought I would do even better with sleep apnea now that I’m retired because my job was very stressful. But I guess I really just have to be mindful now.”
Both Tom and Penny had nothing but the highest praise for Dr Sparman and his staff, and for the Crane Resort for having a defibrillator on hand – which helped to revive him.
“Not every hospital back home can do this procedure, and Dr Sparman has this cutting-edge technology,” Tom said. “It’s good to know that there are top quality medical personnel on the island.”
Tom’s insurance carrier had the couple sent back home to Canada for further treatment.
“On the Tuesday when I saw Paul Doyle [the owner of the Crane], he came rushing to me and I thanked him for buying the machine,” Penny said. “CPR will not bring someone back that suffers from this.”
Tom was equally grateful for the life-saving measures and the high quality medical treatment he received while on the island.
“I have to learn to trust the defibrillator and that’s going to take some time,” Tom said. “But Dr Sparman says to live your life and let this instance be a wake-up call.”