MENTOR, Ohio (WJW)– Joe Gerich calls his CrossFit coaches his guardian angels after he suffered cardiac arrest and they wasted no time starting efforts to successfully resuscitate him.
Gerich, 48, was working out at CrossFit Mentality in Mentor on Dec. 11. He had just finished a rowing workout and said he felt fine.
“I got up, talking to people, felt completely fine, completely 100 percent fine. I’m thinking, ‘Hey what’s going on?’ Walked to the other side and that’s where it all happened.”
Shayna Panchik was coaching his workouts that day.
“We had like 2 minutes left before we had our next workout and I noticed Joe had stood up from one of our boxes right here. And as he stood up, he kind of stumbled back and tumbled over that box so as soon as I saw that happen I kind of rushed over,” Panchik said.
“I sat down on a box like this and in a second, my head just hurt, for like a billionth of a second, then a black sheet and I fell over. And that’s when the rest of them took over,” Gerich said.
Pancheck said she felt a faint pulse, but Gerich seemed unresponsive. She asked coworkers to call 911 and two other coworkers quickly came over to help, including Danny Carroll.
“I’d say within about 30 seconds or so that’s when he stopped breathing. He lost the pulse and that was when I started CPR.” said Carroll, who is also a firefighter-medic in Willoughby and a CPR instructor.
Alyssa Zuccaro, also a coach at the CrossFit gym, had been working out and ran to grab the AED defibrillator from another room.
“I’m like in the heat of the moment, unsure exactly and he just kind of walked me through, like get the scissors out we got to cut his shirt so as he is still doing compressions. Once his shirt was off and he was continuing with his CPR, I placed the pads where they said to be and then they kind of advised the shock from there as they read the rhythm of his heart,” Zuccaro said.
“I hear the worry in his (Carroll’s) voice as he’s kind of talking and coaching us and stuff. I could tell the severity of that and once that AED performed a shock on him it really kicked in.”
Before the ambulance arrived, Gerich was already conscious and alert.
“I got up and was like. ‘Hey could somebody drive me to the hospital”‘ that’s how I felt,” Gerich said.
“He was actually joking right away. He was like, ‘I didn’t hit my head. I just know my chest hurts from the compressions,'” Zuccaro said.
Gerich was taken to a local hospital where doctors told him one of his coronary arteries had been 100 percent blocked.
He underwent successful surgery and was out of the hospital after eight days.
He credits the teamwork of his three CrossFit coaches for saving his life.
“If they are not there, I’m not here so I owe them my life completely,” said Gerich.
“There were a lot of different factors that helped contribute to the successful outcome. Number one that Joe was already in good shape coming and working out here every day at CrossFit Mentality and the fact that the three of us were able to work together as a team. We called 911, Alyssa had already got the AED, you know, started those compressions early on you know all those things all contributed to a successful outcome,” Carroll said.