Suburban Heroes: Group effort saves man's life at Buehler YMCA

North Barrington resident Greg Sendi had quite a support team when he went into cardiac arrest at the Buehler YMCA in Palatine.

Sendi, known for his friendliness toward Buehler YMCA employees, hopped on a treadmill as part of his typical workout Jan. 6. However, his visit took a dramatic turn after he sat down to check some mobile device messages and catch his breath after the treadmill.

A member ran from the wellness center calling for a doctor. Five Buehler YMCA employees and a member reacted quickly after seeing the 54-year-old Sendi and realizing he had suddenly gone into cardiac arrest. Time was of the essence.

"Basically, the plumbing and electrical that keeps my heart pumping collapsed," Sendi said in a statement. "If the Y team had delayed even for an instant, I'd be dead. My cardiologist was very surprised I sustained no heart damage. I'm back working out because the Y staff was well trained to work together and effectively performed cycles of cardiopulmonary resuscitation."

Membership supervisor Becca Wolfe, personal trainer Rachel Herndon, personal trainer Agnes Gallagher, wellness consultant and personal trainer Kaitlin Fonger, lifeguard Marty Chindblom and Kimberly Shirmer, a member who's a nurse, rotated to keep compressions strong on Sendi until Palatine paramedics arrived.

Fonger remembered seeing Sendi on the floor, purple in the face and not breathing. She said everyone was well-trained and worked as a team.

"While watching Greg fight for his life, I was filled with so much fear that this man was going to die in front of my eyes - that we weren't going to be able to save him," said Fonger, who described herself being on autopilot while giving compressions to Sendi.

Sendi said he did not have previous heart problems. He and his family recently hosted a luncheon at the Buehler YMCA, which included lifesaving awards presented by Executive Director Nick Baird to the employees who performed CPR on Sendi.

Fonger said she's grateful for Sendi's recovery and return to the YMCA.

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