JCC Employees Prove Training Can Be Life-Saving

It was like any other day in Mark Schaffer’s life. He was at the JCC Indianapolis, a United Way partner agency, doing his usual workout routine as he had been for the past four months. But this day will forever be remembered by Mark and his family as truly life-changing. From the JCC’s point of view it was truly life-saving.


After 30 minutes on the treadmill, Mark went to the mats to do some stretches. Without any warning signs, Mark suffered a major heart attack. JCC Head Trainer Javan Odinga noticed immediately that something was incredibly wrong. Trained in CPR, as are all JCC fitness employees, he immediately ran for the portable AED (automatic external defibrillator).


When Javan returned to Mark’s side, he took over chest compressions from a JCC member/physician who had immediately jumped in to help. JCC’s Director of Fitness, Katherine Matutes, begun mouth to mouth resuscitation as the Director of Aquatics, Rachel Horan, coached them, counting out loud and watching Mark’s chest for any signs of breathing on his own.


Thankfully, the team was able to revive Mark after employing the AED machine twice. By the time the EMT and emergency personnel arrived, Katherine was giving Mark oxygen and helping to keep him calm, as he was now awake and alert but, quite naturally, confused and disoriented.


Mark was transported at once by ambulance to St. Vincent Hospital, where it was determined that he immediately needed quadruple bypass surgery. The operating physicians and nursing staff were amazed to find that Mark had suffered no heart damage. This was clearly the result of the amazing speed and skill the JCC staff used during their CPR work to revive Mark. The JCC staff were not only heroes to Mark and his wife, Leslie (“Les”), a retired ER nurse, but they were a textbook example of how a skilled, life-saving team not only saved a life but saved Mark’s heart from additional damage.


Just one week later, after his successful surgery, Mark and his wife Les returned to the JCC to thank Javan, Katherine, Rachel and other staff and members who had helped during the crisis. Two weeks later Mark was at the JCC to begin his cardiac rehabilitation. Three months later Mark and Les were on holiday in Europe for a family wedding. Of course, none of this would have been possible had it not been for the heroic actions of the prepared, focused and keen abilities of the highly-trained JCC staff.


Javan, Les and Mark at The JCC
Javan, at left, saved Mark’s life (at right with wife) thanks to training the JCC provides its employees.

“Every time I come here – two or three times a week for cardiac rehab,” commented Mark, “and I see Javan, I make a point of going over and shaking his hand, giving him a hug and thanking him.” Mark’s wife Les added, “I just want people to realize how important it is to have such rapid response to an emergency. I deeply appreciate the training that staff goes through, and this [incident] just proves that. I was an ER nurse for 26 years, you say it over and over how important it [training] is. Kudos to everybody here who responded so quickly, even the front desk associate. When a fitness staff person ran to her and said, ‘Do you have any idea who this person is?’ she knew exactly who he was. Even that’s important—it is like a family.”


When asked about the overall impact of their experience, Mark and Les remarked, “To us it’s been a positive impact. You know, you try and say it’s important to stay healthy, stay the right weight, and now I think it’s a realization to Mark that he really needed some lifestyle changes. And, as a couple, we feel like we’ve been given a second chance…a huge second chance.”


“I’m a math person, so probability comes to mind,” Mark remarked. “The likelihood of being at the right place at the right time is so small; that’s why I feel so lucky. I was right here when [the heart attack] happened, and there were a lot of very good people around that knew exactly what to do to help me out. The probability of that happening is so slight that it’s almost remote.”


More than a community center, more than a fitness center, the JCC is a family that takes care of its family members. That’s how Mark and Les feel, that’s how the JCC staff feels, and that’s the message for anyone and everyone who comes to the JCC. Mark and Les have been JCC members for over 40 years. They intend to stay JCC members for many more years to come and, thanks to the JCC staff, they are confident – and grateful – that their future experiences at the JCC will be bright ones.


United Way of Central Indiana is proud to partner with the JCC in its mission to provide our community with a multi-generational, inclusive environment where all people can live, learn, play and connect. One hundred years after its modest beginnings, the JCC continues to serve the community with its holistic approach to wellness — optimal healthy living for the mind, body and spirit.


See more stories that unite us here.