Darrell Parker, cardiac arrest survivor


Coming together to save a life

When Darrell’s heart stopped, one of the strangers who ran to help was cardiac surgeon Corey Adams

Chapter 1 After the hike

It was Saturday morning on Father’s Day weekend.

Darrell and Shirley Parker, early 60s, had met up with their son and daughter-in-law for a hike on the Grassi Lakes Trail near Canmore, Alta. After their walk, heading to the parking lot, Darrell fell behind. His family waited, unaware that on the side of the road, Darrell had collapsed in cardiac arrest.

Find out what happened to Darrell and how bystanders saved him with CPR.

Darrell’s story and life might have ended there. But suddenly, a confluence of strangers – bystanders to his emergency – came together to save his life.

One was Dr. Corey Adams, a cardiac surgeon. Corey, his wife Jennifer, also a physician, and their two children had just finished their hike and were caught in slow traffic trying to leave the park when someone yelled to call 9-1-1. A man was unconscious. 

Chapter 2 Teamwork in action

Corey hopped out of the car to help. A man had already started performing CPR on Darrell, who had no pulse and was completely blue.

Another bystander tried to identify Darrell and find his family, while Corey and two men took two-minute turns doing CPR on Darrell, checking his pulse at each interval.

Darrell Parker beside his hospital bed next to his wife, Shirley Parker (left) and the surgeon who saved his life, Dr. Corey Adams (right).

Darrell asked Corey to perform his bypass surgery. (Photo: Parker family)

Darrell and his wife, Shirley, sit by a creek at the trail.

Darrell and Shirley back on the trail. (Photo: Parker family)

Doctor Corey Adams

Cardiac surgeon Dr. Corey Adams was one of the bystanders who took turns giving CPR to Darrell. (Photo: Heron Hanuman, Double H Creative Inc.)

Jennifer engaged others to help move cars or direct traffic to keep Darrell and his “CPR team” safe, and to make room for the arrival of first responders. She also checked Darrell’s wallet to find out if he was on any medication.

Meanwhile, Darrell’s son went back to look for him. The rest of the family quickly joined him when they heard the news. 

By the time the paramedics were able to make it through the park, Darrell had been receiving steady CPR for more than 20 minutes. Corey and the two other men worked together all that time to keep his blood circulating until the paramedics took over and used a defibrillator to shock his heart.

They had to use the defibrillator three times and intubate Darrell. Finally, he was transported to Canmore General Hospital, where he was stabilized. He was then transferred to the cardiac unit at Foothills Medical Centre in Calgary. 

Chapter 3 Full circle

Corey was at Foothills a couple of days later, making his rounds as a member of the surgical team at the Cumming School of Medicine’s Libin Cardiovascular Institute. That’s when he discovered Darrell was a patient. When Darrell learned about Corey’s role in his survival, he asked Corey to perform his bypass surgery.

It was amazing. It was organized… humanity coming forward in such a way that saved my life.
Darrell Parker

Darrell, fully recovered now, doesn’t remember much about that day in Canmore, but he’s heard all the stories. He knows that a group of bystanders working together allowed him to beat the odds and survive. “It was amazing. It was organized… humanity coming forward in such a way that saved my life,” said Darrell.

Corey says it was a team effort that day. “We all should be proud… we kept him alive for another Christmas, another birthday.”

Over a year later, Corey must have felt a sense of déjà vu because, once again, he and his family were out for a day of activities when a man, Eric McVeigh, running down a path suddenly collapsed. The physicians pulled over and began administering CPR. Later, Corey performed Eric’s surgery too.