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June 18, 2014

Fla. tennis player thanks AED-trained fitness workers who saved his life

By Richard Dymond
The Bradenton Herald

MANATEE, Fla. — Whitfield Estates resident Gary Trapp, 69, has been an athlete his entire life and still looked fit Tuesday when he walked into the LA Fitness on 52nd Place East in the Creekwood Shopping Center for a special ceremony to honor people who had saved his life.

Trapp, who has a tiny waist and an athlete's nimbleness, has been the No. 1-ranked tennis player in his age group in the Florida Section of the U.S. Tennis Association at various times in his 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s.

But Trapp's fitness level did not prevent a medical emergency last month when his heart stopped while he was playing racquetball at the Creekwood LA Fitness.

The moral of his remarkable story, which he recounted Tuesday when the Manatee County Department of Public Safety came to honor the men and women who saved his life, is a heart can stop at any time and having people on the spot who know how to do CPR and defibrillation is critical.

"Because of you, I got to enjoy another Father's Day," a tearful Trapp told a gathering of roughly 20 people. "It feels awesome to stand here or just to stand any

where for that matter. If it wasn't for all of you, I wouldn't be here."

Trapp said he was competing when he felt light-headed.

"I was in the middle of my third game of racquetball when suddenly I began to hear a booming beat in my ears, " Trapp said. "I remember thinking, 'This isn't good.' The next thing I know, I blacked out. I don't remember falling down."

When they saw Trapp collapse, Marcia Storhoff and Danny Delgado, LA Fitness members working out near the racquetball court, sprang into action.

Storhoff raced to get Erivaldo DeCarvalho , LA Fitness director of personal training, and he and Delgado began chest compressions and CPR.

Storhoff never left Trapp's side, DeCarvalho said.

DeCarvalho and Delgado realized after 45 seconds Trapp was still not breathing and CPR alone was not working.

DeCarvalho yelled to LA Fitness employee Adam Beidron: "Get the defibrillator right now! It's behind my desk!"

LA Fitness requires every manager to pass a course on how to use an automated external defibrillator, DeCarvalho said.

"I was calm because I knew what to do," DeCarvalho said. "I told Adam to cut Gary's shirt open and I got the sticky pads on Gary's chest and turned the machine on. It read that Gary had no vitals. The only way the machine will deliver a shock is if the vitals are dead. I then pushed the button."

The shock to his heart sent Trapp rising into the air.

"Within a few seconds, he began to get color in his cheeks," DeCarvalho said. "He then opened his eyes. He became awake and even talked to us. He couldn't believe he had a heart attack.

"I am not a man who is very religious, but at that moment I had sent out a prayer and it had gotten answered."

Michael Hamilton, Jason Morrow and Joe Griffith from East Manatee Fire Rescue and Donald Miller and Kevin Mackin from Manatee County EMS arrived seconds later.

"When I opened my eyes, the first thing I saw were those five guys," Trapp said.

All five were present Tuesday to shake hands with Trapp.

"What's amazing is that Mr. DeCarvalho had taken a CPR course required by his employer, LA Fitness, just a month before this incident and had also taken a required course on using a defibrillator," said Jason Evans, a training lieutenant with Manatee County EMS who presented DeCarvalho with a Manatee County Public Safety "Lifesaver Award" at LA Fitness on Tuesday. "We applaud LA Fitness for requiring these courses."

The American Heart Association and Manatee Technical Institute are among many local organizations that offer CPR classes, Evans said,

"I think the lesson here is that it often takes a combination of CPR and defibrillation to revive someone who is in cardiac arrest," Evans said.

Trapp's doctors are not exactly sure what happened because no artery blockages were found, but a pacemaker was installed three days later to ensure his heartbeat remains steady, Trapp said.

"When Gary said he got to enjoy another Father's Day, that touched me," DeCarvalho said. "The whole experience for me was a blessing."

Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter @RichardDymond.


McClatchy-Tribune News Service
©2014 The Bradenton Herald (Bradenton, Fla.)