A former STARS Air Ambulance Lottery grand prize winner has seen firsthand how the life-saving organization’s funds are spent, after he went from supporter to patient earlier this year.
Neil Lund and his wife Mona Cardinal have purchased STARS lottery tickets for 25 years and in 2014, they won a Calgary dream home worth $1.3 million.
Lund says they never missed a year since 2008 when buying tickets, because someday he “might need” medical help from the organization.
That day came on Jan. 26, 2023.
“We just came back from uptown,” says Lund, “And I went in (to the garage) and sat down and (Mona) was out shoveling snow because I couldn’t, and about 10 minutes after I sat down, that’s when the heart problems started.”
Cardinal says Lund started to yell for her.
“He said ‘Mona, I don’t feel good,’ so I ran into the garage to see what was going on and by that time he had fallen over,” Cardinal said. “I got him back up and went out to the truck to call 911.”
When paramedics arrived at their Didsbury home, about 60 kilometres north of Calgary, Cardinal says Neil’s heartbeat was just 22 beats per minute. A normal, healthy resting heart rate for an adult is 60 to 100.
“They loaded him in the ambulance, got him all hooked up and everything and they come back and said to me that he was stable, so they were going to try and get him to Calgary by ambulance.”
Cardinal recalls paramedics calling moments after leaving to tell her that her husband had passed out twice on the way to Calgary, forcing paramedics to turn around and take Lund to the Didsbury hospital.
“They got him into emergency and got Dr. Smith, our doctor was on call, and she got the nurses going with him, getting him stable and she stepped out (into the hallway) and called STARS,” said Cardinal.
Lund was airlifted from the Didsbury District Health Services to Foothills Hospital in Calgary with STARS flight paramedic Greg Barton on board.
“We hooked him up to our critical care monitor and trialed some pacing on him just to make sure that we could capture and increase his heartbeat electrically as required,” Barton said.
That would prove to be a critical move by the team, with Lund losing vital signs on the way to the hospital.
“His heart temporarily stopped and because we had that monitor hooked up we were able to manage it electrically until the physician at the hospital could do more invasive techniques and get him stabilized,” the paramedic said.
Barton recalled during the flight when Lund mentioned that he was a previous winner of the STARS lottery and how everything has now come full circle.
The 21-year paramedic said he’s never experienced anyone who’s been in Lund’s position while on the job.
“There are lottery winners to a smaller extent, but not like this where they’ve won the grand prize and then end up as a critical patient,” he says.
According to Cardinal, Lund was suffering from a heart blockage, but is expected to make a full recovery.
It’s been six weeks since the incident and two things in Lund’s life are now certain: he will always need a pacemaker and the couple will always be loyal purchasers of a STARS lottery ticket.
“They save lives a lot faster than people think and a lot of people don’t think they’ll ever need it, but someday they might.”
The 2023 STARS Lottery is on sale right now. The early bird draw takes place this Friday, and the final deadline is March 22. The draw happens April 5.
To purchase your tickets now visit starslottery.ca or call 1-855-STARS 68 (1-855-782-7768).
Shock Trauma Air Rescue Service has been providing specialized emergency care and transportation for critically ill and injured patients across the Prairies since the 1985.
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