Gym members save man’s life

FRANKLIN. Andrew Weekley, 47, credits the AED at Anytime Fitness and people who knew how to use it with reviving him after his heart stopped.

| 25 Nov 2023 | 06:08

The morning of July 18 was shaping up to be like any other at Anytime Fitness in Franklin - with members getting in early morning workouts before going about their day.

“I was finishing up my workout with some cardio,” said Andrew Weekley, 47, of Franklin. “The workout had not been that strenuous at all, but something didn’t feel right as I walked to the locker room.”

He did not know that he had coronary artery disease and was about to experience a major adverse cardiac event.

Weekley splashed water on his face and did his best to get his faculties back to normal.

Ron Tan, a fellow gym member, walked past him at the sink and headed toward the locker room stalls as he too had just finished his workout.

“I walked by Andrew as he was washing his face at the sink and moments later I hear a thud and I look back and Andrew is lying on the ground on his back,” recalled Tan, a 36-year-old registered nurse from Franklin.

“At first, I thought he was having a seizure and I started to treat it as such, but then he almost immediately began gasping for air and turning blue and I knew I had to intervene. I couldn’t feel a pulse and at that point my nursing instincts kicked in and I immediately began compressions. He was still trying to gasp for air, so I had to make sure that he was getting enough blood to his brain.”

As he helped Weekley on the locker room floor, Tan flagged down fellow gym member Jason Boggs, 43, of Stockholm and told him to grab the automated external defibrillator (AED) off the wall on the other side of the gym.

Stacie Krieger, a 37-year-old registered respiratory therapist from Wantage, was on an elliptical, just feet from where the AED was.

“The AED was on the wall in front of the elliptical I was using and when (Boggs) came over and pointed to it, it made me curious as to what was going on,” she said. “When he grabbed it off the wall and headed towards the locker room, I got off of the elliptical to see what was going on and I saw Andrew on the floor.”

Krieger informed Tan of her medical background and began assisting him with chest compressions.

Boggs, meanwhile, opened and began preparing the AED according to Tan’s instructions.

With the AED ready, “I put the first pad on his chest and the second by the side of his body and started compressions and the AED took it from there,” Tan said.

Anxious moments

“We turned on the AED and let it do its thing to circulate and see if a shock is needed, and it did shock Andrew a couple of times,” Krieger said. “We did a few rounds of CPR and we got his pulse back and the paramedics arrived.”

Weekley recalls none of this. He remembers putting water on his face at the locker room sink, then being given water by a paramedic.

“I have no recollection of falling down or anything like that,” he said. “I blacked out. I didn’t feel bad when I was working out. I got off the machine, cooled down, got water and I have no recollection what happened after that.

“Suddenly, I was in an ambulance, I felt no pain and they actually handed me the phone in the ambulance to call my wife, Jen. I had no idea why I was in the ambulance but was scared when I heard one of them say my heart had stopped.”

When asked to think back to those moments, Jennifer Weekley has trouble holding back tears.

“I was in disbelief when the paramedics told me he needed to be resuscitated with CPR and an AED,” said Weekley, a Realtor and mental health clinician at Newton Medical Center. “I cried seeing them all at the gym for the picture we took. Thinking back to that day, I am certain God or some higher power must have been watching over him.”

Fast recovery

She has been relieved to see him get back into the swing of things.

“His outlet has always been working out so I am thrilled to see him back running and lifting weights again,” she said. “Within days of coming home, he was walking, and within two weeks, he was at five miles a day. The doctor attributed his recovery to the fact he was in such good shape to start off with.”

Andrew Weekley sells medical equipment, in the past working in cath labs (cardiac catheterization) so he was familiar with several members of the medical team who treated him.

In fact, he had observed a bypass surgery years earlier by Dr. John Brown at Morristown Medical Center - the same surgeon who performed Weekley’s triple bypass surgery in July.

“I am blessed to be here today,” said Weekley, who also is a strength and conditioning coach. “The fact that Tan - a highly qualified nurse who knew how to observe me and when to use and start compressions and how to use the AED - was right there with me and Stacie, a respiratory therapist, and a few other people to assist them makes me more than fortunate.”

Since then, he has been back at the gym where he regularly sees the people who helped keep him alive.

He is taking his medicine and hopes his ordeal can shine the light on how important it is for gyms, schools, offices, homes - you name it - to have working AEDs on hand and personnel trained how to use them.

The portable electronic devices automatically diagnose the life-threatening cardiac arrhythmias of ventricular fibrillation and pulseless ventricular tachycardia, then send an electric shock to the heart to restore a normal heartbeat.

“However, the most important part of this story is the AED itself,” he said. “A life-saving device was there at a moment of need and it is easy to use. You turn on the device and follow the voice prompts. It almost automatically engages.

“I think the key is that the staff at Anytime Fitness maintained the AED. The owner of Anytime Fitness told me he has had that device for 10 or 15 years but never used it but always maintained it. Thank God, they maintained it.

“If someone sees a flashing red light on an AED, they should notify someone immediately because those batteries need to be in working order. The fact that I am talking to you right now is proof of that.”

He also pointed to something just as vital as AEDs

“Get your calcium tests done. It doesn’t matter if you look healthy, unhealthy, are a male or a female. Those tests detect clogged arteries.”

“I am blessed to be here today. The fact that (Ron) Tan - a highly qualified nurse who knew how to observe me and when to use and start compressions and how to use the AED - was right there with me and Stacie (Krieger), a respiratory therapist, and a few other people to assist them makes me more than fortunate.”
- Andrew Weekley, 47, of Franklin