A Vernon, B.C., Zamboni driver, with a background in volunteer firefighting, was in the right place at the right time when he helped save the life of a stranger in February 2020.
“It is an honour. I’m blessed. I can’t imagine a better outcome: Al making a full recovery, us being friends. He is an awesome guy,” said Rockall.
It all started nearly two years ago, in February 2020, when hockey on the ice came to a sudden halt.
A player had collapsed on the bench and was unconscious.
Rockall says he ran over to find Winther slumped between the bench and the boards and started chest compressions.
“It was intense. The guy on the phone with 911 was trying to give me instructions…and the whole team was standing around me and guys were yelling at me, ‘Do this! Do that!’” recalled Rockall.
The hockey players had already gotten out an automated external defibrillator (AED).
“The AED started doing its thing and it was telling me to press harder and then it said that it was analyzing and that a shock was advised. So I gave him a shock,” Rockall said.
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More compressions and a second shock followed before the fire department and paramedics arrived and took over.
Winther was still unconscious and Rockall wasn’t sure how he would fare.
“Thankfully the paramedic came back a couple hours later and said that Al had started breathing on his own on the way to the hospital, that he was in a coma and we’d see what was going to happen,” Rockall said.
“A few days later he woke up.”
Rockall said, by chance, he was with another member of the team when he received the news Winther was no longer in a coma.
“We both got the message at the same time. It was an amazing feeling. We hugged each other. It was surreal,” said Rockall said.
Winther said the last thing he remembered about that day was going to the rink. His next memory is of waking up in the hospital.
He is grateful to Rockall and his teammates for helping to keep him alive.
“I was very fortunate it happened where those fellows happened to be there otherwise it wouldn’t have been a good outcome for me or my family,” Winther said.
Rockall said within weeks of the incident Winther was able to walk back into the area.
“I just happened to be there and he just happened to be looking for the guy that saved his life. I looked up onto the concourse and…I had the chills. [I] went up and gave him a hug and I said, ‘You are looking a lot better than the last time I saw you,’” Rockall said.
The pair have since become friends and were both on hand as Rockall received the Vital Link Award on Friday.
“Be thankful for every day that you have and do what you can to support your fellow human beings. If you can, get your CPR training and learn how to use the AED,” said Winther.
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