Teenager jumps into action, saves man having heart attack at local gym

CNN Newsource Pristine Villarreal

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (eastidahonews.com) — A routine visit to Planet Fitness in Idaho Falls earlier this month turned into a night Grace Pontzer will never forget.

The 17-year-old was working out and chatting with a friend when suddenly, across the gym, a man fell off a treadmill.

“It didn’t fully register until I saw him on the ground and he didn’t get up. Then a bystander said, ‘Hey! I need help,’” Pontzer recalls.

The Idaho Falls High School senior became CPR certified just five months ago and never thought she would use her training so soon. But on that late evening at the gym, she bolted over to the man on the ground.

“I rolled him over on his side (and) he still wasn’t breathing so I rolled him onto his back and started CPR compressions,” Pontzer says.

Paramedics were called and Pontzer was assisted by several people including a local nursing student from Idaho State University named Hailey Hammond. Pontzer and Hammond alternated chest compressions on the man.

After four rounds, they put an automated external defibrillator, which was in the gym, on the man’s chest. An automated external defibrillator (AED) is a lightweight, portable device that delivers an electric shock through the chest to the heart. The shock can potentially stop an irregular heartbeat and allow a normal rhythm to resume following sudden cardiac arrest.

“I got him responsive and he did have a pulse and was breathing by the time the paramedics got there,” she says. “Thank goodness he was alive.”

Dr. Blake Wachter is a cardiologist at the Idaho Heart Institute and is one of many health professionals who treated the man following his heart attack. He’s recovering now and is doing well.

“Grace absolutely saved this man’s life. Had he stayed on the ground a couple more minutes, he would not have had such a great outcome as he did,” Wachter explains.

Wachter says survival rates approach 95% if CPR and an AED are used on people within the first three minutes of cardiac arrest.

In an emergency, Wachter says the first thing to do is call 911 and then begin chest compressions.

“You want to go at a fast beat. You don’t have to worry about counting or whatever. Just do fast and deep compressions,” Wachter says.

AEDs are available in most public places and they’re easy to use. You turn it on, put the pads on the patient’s chest and the machine will walk you through every step of the way.

“If the patient needs to be shocked, and only if the patient needs to be shocked, it will deliver the shock and then the AED will instruct you to continue to do CPR,” Wachter explains. “If you were to put an AED on someone who did not need to be shocked, it wouldn’t shock them so you don’t have to worry about doing something wrong.”

Wachter is pleased Pontzer did everything right following the stranger’s heart attack at the gym. The teen will be honored at the annual Idaho Heart Foundation Ball on Saturday and she, along with Wachter, hopes her actions inspire others who find themselves in similar situations.

“I’m just so happy that he’s here. I’m so glad I could keep another person in this world,” Pontzer says.

Please note: This content carries a strict local market embargo. If you share the same market as the contributor of this article, you may not use it on any platform.


™ & © 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

Suscribe Form Desktop


Submit your suggestions and questions

Nbc Palm Spring Logo

Download our App

Apple Store Logo

Play Store Logo