Penticton heart attack victim thanks life savers

Penticton recreation staffers Lisa O'Daly, left, and Graeme Naish, right, flank Mayor Andrew Jakubeit at the Monday, June 1, 2015 city council meeting where they were commended for their efforts to resuscitate Gary Gierlich.

PENTICTON - A Penticton man is effusive in his gratitude to the people who saved his life after he suffered a heart attack while playing pickle ball at the community centre gym.

Gary Gierlich, 58, says his last memory before collapsing on April 16 was a feeling of dizziness. The next thing he remembers is waking up surrounded by “a whole bunch of unfamiliar faces in uniform.”

His life was saved by the quick thinking city employees Lisa O’Daly and Graeme Naish. The two restarted Gierlich’s heart with CPR and an Automatic External Defibrillator.

O’Daly says she was in the pool when she was notified of Gierlich’s condition. She responded with Naish arriving soon after. Naish performed the CPR compressions while O’Daly used defibrillator.

“It was a great example of teamwork,” O'Daly says. “We’re so happy for Gary and his family. The stars were out for him.”

O’Daly and Naish have been recognized by the Lifesaving Society and by Mayor Andrew Jakubeit at a recent Penticton council meeting.

Gierlich was taken to the heart unit at Kelowna General Hospital, where he received a quadruple bypass.

“Incredibly professional (the staff) at that Kelowna Cardiac Clinic,” he says.

Gierlich is still in recovery as his sternum heals from the CPR and surgery, but he says he feels great and is expected to be back “better than before.”

“I call myself the latest Penticton lottery winner," pointing out his heart attack happened 200 feet from lifeguards and a defibrillator — with an Emergency Room nurse playing pickle ball nearby.

“I’m very emotional these days. I tell people I cry at Telus commercials now."

Gierlich is going to take a CPR course when he's feeling better saying with more and more people having heart attacks and he wants to carry it forward and be there for somebody else. 

He says he's been given a second chance, but points out there is a downside.

"I’m just worried no one will play pickle ball with me now because there’s been too much drama," he jokes.

To contact the reporter for this story, email Steve Arstad at or call 250-488-3065. To contact the editor, email or call 250-718-2724.

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