How Lydia saved her sister

Quick-thinking teen performs CPR after little girl collapses in cardiac arrest.

On a snowy Sunday afternoon last February, the four Fréchette sisters had planned to go tobogganing but the weather was too cold. So they headed to visit their grandmother instead.

Suddenly the youngest, five-year-old Madeleine, collapsed a few steps from their grandmother’s apartment building in Gatineau, Que. Her eldest sister Lydia, 19, carried her to the door then started doing CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation).She told the other girls to knock on doors for help.

<p>Madeleine and Lydia</p>
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Madeleine and Lydia


Meanwhile residents who saw what was happening through the building’s surveillance camera dialled 9-1-1. An ambulance arrived within minutes and took Madeleine to the Gatineau Hospital, where the emergency room doctors identified a cardiac arrest.

Madeleine was transferred to the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) where doctors diagnosed her with a rare type of heart rhythm disorder called catecholaminergic polymorphic ventricular tachycardia (CPVT).

The girls’ father, Luc Fréchette, has no doubt that Lydia’s fast action saved her sister’s life.

Lydia had learned CPR in her grade 10 science class, then earned certification in the skill for her summer job working as a counsellor at community day camps.

Luc is proud of his eldest daughter. “She knew exactly what to do and how to do it,” he says. “My wife and I are very grateful to Lydia, to the first responders from the Gatineau emergency services, to the emergency team at our local health centre and the cardiology team at CHEO, who all took care of Madeleine and of our family during these very difficult, stressful moments.”

Madeleine is doing well, taking medication to control her arrythmia and having her heart monitored on regular visits to a cardiologist. Her heart condition is the result of a mutated gene, her parents said. Fortunately, genetic testing on the other family members has revealed that none of them share this disorder.

The residents’ association at her grandmother’s building presented both girls with gifts to celebrate Lydia’s heroism and Madeleine’s recovery. “We’re very happy to know that she’s doing well. This little gift is our way to tell her we hope she’ll be visiting her grandmother for a long time to come,” said Roger Tanguay, president of the association.

Madeleine’s parents and the whole family are just grateful to have her back home safe.

Did you know? Every 13 minutes, a cardiac arrest occurs in Canada. The Heart and Stroke Foundation recently released the 2015 Guidelines for CPR and Emergency Cardiovascular Care. The new guidelines are aimed at improving cardiac arrest and first aid response and treatment.

The Heart and Stroke Foundation is the Canadian leader in resuscitation science, education and training.