By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Shrewsbury/Westborough – Frank Stille of Shrewsbury is accustomed to exercising on a treadmill at the Boroughs Family Branch YMCA in Westborough. However, a routine workout turned startling when he suffered a cardiac arrest Dec. 23, 2014.
“It was lights out; my heart stopped working,” he relayed. “Next, I was lying on the floor. I looked up and there were these faces looking down at me.”
Watching over him were three people who have become known as Frank’s Team: Chris Moore, Lt. John R. O’Neill and Phyllis Trainor.
“If they hadn’t been there, I’d be dead now,” Stille said of his lifesaving team. “I owe my life to them.”
Chris Moore of Shrewsbury is a Boroughs Y staff member, working there while on winter break from UMass Amherst. He began the code blue procedure by alerting the front desk staff to call 911. Moore got and prepared the automated external defibrillator (AED).
“When I got there with the AED, Phyllis and John were both already doing CPR,” he recalled.
Phyllis Trainor of Shrewsbury is a retired registered nurse, who was exercising on a nearby elliptical machine and recognized the medical emergency.
“There was no breathing or chest movement,” Trainor said. “I screamed for help.”
Hearing the commotion from the weight room was Lt. John R. O’Neill, a Navy pilot and Shrewsbury native on leave from the Naval Air Station in Norfolk, Va., visiting family for Christmas. He assisted Trainor with the CPR.
“I started doing a sternal rub; Frank was totally unresponsive,” O’Neill relayed. “We started almost immediately with the compressions. The CPR was keeping him going; the AED actually brought him back.”
The AED analyzed Stille’s heart rhythm and a shock was advised. After the shock, they continued with two more rounds of CPR, O’Neill noted.
“When Phyllis put the two rescue breaths into him, you could see his lungs fill up real big,” he said. “Frank gasped for air and his eyes started to flutter. He slowly started coming back.”
An ambulance transported Stille to UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester. A catheterization detected three coronary arteries were blocked 90 percent.
“I got a triple bypass,” Stille explained. “It’s devastating as far as your ability to recover; you feel so tired. Essentially, you feel stronger every day.”
Stille and his wife, Cindy, invited the team for lunch at their home while O’Neill was in town Father’s Day weekend. Everyone involved deems the resuscitation a Christmas miracle, O’Neill noted.
“The first thing that raced through my mind was that this guy probably has grandkids and it’d be awful if they lose their grandfather two days before Christmas,” he recalled. “His wife, Cindy, sent me a picture of him with his children and grandkids by his hospital bed on Christmas Day.”
The resuscitation prompted Moore to take classes this summer toward his EMT certification.
“I’m looking to become a physician assistant,” he said. “This experience got me thinking that I helped make such a difference for someone.”
Trainor credits a mantra she has followed since developing an interest in becoming a nurse at age 14.
“Always be ready to help other people,” she said. “I really believe Frank was blessed that John, Chris and I were in the right place at the right time.”
Stille attends a cardiac rehabilitation class at Marlborough Hospital. He and his family have donated an AED to the Boroughs Y, so now the facility has one on each of its floors.
“Every second counts,” Stille said of the quick response of Frank’s Team. “I suffered no brain or heart muscle damage. I’m pretty much back to where I was before I had my cardiac arrest.”