Palatine life savers lauded for heroic rescue

Linda Kleiss jokingly admits that while working out Wednesday morning at Palatine's Midtown Athletic Club, she turned around a few times to make sure 68-year-old Steve Holland's feet were still moving.

Just last month, Kleiss saw her good friend fly off the treadmill and land with a loud thud on his head — without a pulse, breathless and in cardiac arrest.

“He hit the floor completely dead weight, so we knew he was unconscious and not doing well,” Kleiss, of Palatine, said.

Kleiss, fellow club member Tim Kirby and Midtown Fitness Director Neil Wywialowski sprung to action that early Nov. 1 morning, performing CPR and using an automatic external defibrillator to shock and save Holland, of Long Grove.

The Palatine Fire Department recognized the trio of rescuers Wednesday with plaques and a brief ceremony at the athletic club.

“We fully understand the great personal pride and satisfaction that comes from saving a life, usually that of a stranger,” Fire Chief Bob Falardeau said. “So whenever we come across an incident where members of the general public selflessly and courageously step up and act to save a life, we certainly want to recognize it and celebrate it.”

Wywialowski said all Midtown associates are trained in CPR and the defibrillator. Kleiss is a nurse practitioner, and Kirby, also from Long Grove, has training from his time in the military and as a youth basketball coach.

Holland, who cycles with Kleiss, said his experience highlights the importance of being trained in lifesaving techniques.

“I'm very grateful to them, that they were well-prepared,” said Holland, wanting to keep the spotlight on his rescuers. “They did a great job.”

So great, in fact, that Holland, who Kirby assumed was in his 50s, returned to Midtown just a week after his Nov. 19 heart valve replacement surgery. He's back to his early morning jogs and keeping up with his cardiac rehabilitation.

Though unconscious just hours earlier, Holland insisted on making a phone call from his bed at Northwest Community Hospital's intensive care unit after his near fatal experience.

“He called me later that day ... and said, ‘Thank you for saving my life,'” Kleiss said. “It was a sweet moment.”

Steve Holland, left, of Long Grove, stands with Linda Kleiss, of Palatine, who helped save his life Nov. 1 at Midtown Athletic Club in Palatine. Bill Zars/bzars@dailyherald
Midtown Athletic Club Fitness Director Neil Wywialowski, left, Linda Kleiss of Palatine and Tim Kirby of Long Grove were honored Wednesday by the Palatine Fire Department for their lifesaving actions. Bill Zars/bzars@dailyherald
Palatine Fire Chief Bob Falardeau talks about lifesaving efforts that saved Steve Holland, a Midtown Athletic Club member who suffered cardiac arrest on Nov. but was revived by a pair of fellow club members and its fitness director. Bill Zars/bzars@dailyherald