Quick action with CPR, AED saves Glenbrook South teacher's life

Fortunately for Glenbrook South High School math teacher Steve Farber, when it really mattered platform tennis became a contact sport.

After two hours playing with his cousin in a member-guest paddle tennis tournament at Tennaqua Swim and Racquet Club in Deerfield, Farber, 56, was ready to accept a serve when he crumpled to his knees and pitched face-first onto the court.

He suffered sudden cardiac arrest.

Fast-acting opponent Jon Gault, who had been ready to serve the ball to Farber, had seen heart attack patients before as a former emergency medical technician at Evanston Hospital.

“Being trained as a first responder, when I saw him go down I knew it was bad,” Gault said.

The Deerfield man sprang into action.

He sprinted across the court, yelling for someone to call 911 as he ran. When Gault came to the prone man seconds later he realized Farber was not breathing.

Gault began to administer cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), chest compressions.

Meanwhile, Todd Siau, another player in the tournament, was getting ready to dig into a plate of tacos between matches.

He heard a commotion, the words, “heart attack,” and that someone — probably Gault — was calling for an automated external defibrillator (AED).

“By then, I think everyone realized the severity of the situation,” said Siau, a former Marine reservist now with BMO Harris, trained in lifesaving techniques years ago as a teenage lifeguard and again with BMO.

Siau estimated in the span of about 1 minute from when he first heard the hubbub, he went from his table, grabbed the AED unit from a club member where it was stored and joined Gault as he administered CPR.

“From there I got right next to (Farber) and started getting the device ready to operate,” Siau said. “As (Gault) was continuing to attend to him I was putting the pads on Steve and fired up the device and waited for the voice prompts.

“We continued to try to get (Farber) revived or to react, which he didn't, then the device prompted a shock once it said it was ready to go. We delivered the shock to him, and once that happened, Jon went right back to compressions to continue lifesaving measures,” Siau said.

Quickly, though, the AED voice prompt said to stop the chest compressions.

“Then he started talking,” Gault said.

“It was amazing,” said Farber, who was transported to NorthShore Highland Park Hospital for a cardiac procedure to treat blocked arteries.

Farber, of Glenview, was back teaching math after a week, though he felt good enough to return when he left the hospital four days after admittance.

“They got to me so fast, 2-3 minutes I would say by the time I stopped breathing and they had restarted everything,” said Farber, married and the father of two Glenbrook South graduates.

An electrocardiogram included in the AED actually recorded a time of less than 2 minutes from Farber losing consciousness to regaining it thanks to the quick work by Gault and Siau.

Time is critical because, as Farber said, for every minute that passes without defibrillation, the cardiac arrest victim's chance of surviving drops 10%. An article by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said currently nine out of 10 people who have cardiac arrest outside of a hospital die.

This happened in October. Farber, who is feeling better now, is back to playing platform tennis. He and Gault just split four matches last Saturday.

Raising awareness of bystander CPR was the focus of a NorthShore AED and CPR training event at Rochelle Zell Jewish High School in Deerfield Sunday.

About 100 people attended the training, which included a salute to Gault and Siau. The two men received certificates of recognition by NorthShore University HealthSystem and the Deerfield Bannockburn Fire Prevention District.

“I was very fortunate to be standing up there with Jon and with Steve,” Siau said.

“The message of the event,” Farber added, “was raising confidence that in a crisis, if you can get to an AED device there's a really good chance there'll be a good outcome. ... It won't work by itself, but it just takes one human being to turn it on and listen to the prompts and save a life.”

NorthShore's Simbulance program provides community outreach and emergency training and prevention sessions, including bystander CPR. The American Heart Association offers CPR and first-aid training in emergency cardiovascular care at numerous metropolitan locations.

Gault was happy he brought that training to Tennaqua along with his paddle, hopefully ensuring Farber “will go on to live many years and have a healthy life with his wife and family.”

The other take-away, he said, is for people to get CPR training and not be afraid of AEDs.

Rochelle Zell Jewish High School student volunteer Zev Montrose trains community members in CPR Sunday. Courtesy of Jim Ziv/NorthShore University HealthSystem
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