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Medford man owes his life to Superior Athletic Club employees

There were no obvious signals that Jay Latona was about to suffer a heart attack, no clear indicators his life was in jeopardy.

The 71-year-old had finished playing handball at Superior Athletic Club's Cardley Avenue gym in Medford just before 7 p.m. July 18. He'd been sitting in a chair near the courts, about to go to the locker room to clean up before possibly coming back out to watch another game.

"I was just tired," Latona says. "There were no symptoms, signs, pain, anxiety, anything like that."

The time between what happened next and Latona's coming to in a hospital room is a blank. He suffered a heart attack sitting in that chair and passed out.

But thanks to CPR-certified gym employees Angela Young and Lynda Sorensen, he lived. Both women, who worked together performing CPR and using an automated external defibrillator, will be honored by Medford Fire-Rescue at 5 p.m. today.

"You can't praise them enough. They both jumped to the task," Latona says.

Assistant managers Young and Sorensen were at the club's front desk. A woman ran up, saying a man had just had a "seizure" in the back. Young and Sorensen followed her to the racquetball courts, where they found Latona slumped over. The two colleagues positioned him on his back and got to work.

"(Young) checks his pulse, no pulse," Sorensen says. "As soon as I see her start chest compressions, I knew we needed AED."

Sorensen ran to retrieve it and told the front desk to call 911. They already had. She grabbed the AED and went back. Young had administered a few rounds of CPR. The two women hooked Latona up to the device and administered a shock before resuming chest compressions.

"I did another maybe eight, 10 rounds of compressions and breaths," Young says. "He had a big breath, so my hopes got up."

But there still was no pulse, so she kept going. Eventually heart beats and breaths resumed.

"That's when we got him back for real," Young says.

Paramedics arrived. Young says she backed up as they got to work, suddenly cognizant of what she had just been part of.

"It wasn't real. It wasn't until the paramedics took over and I was stepping back. That's when everything came into focus of what I just did," she says. "That's when it hit me. I was just 10 steps back away from it: 'Oh my God. He was gone, now he's there.'"

Sorensen shook from the adrenaline. Relief crashed over her.

"I absolutely knew that we could save his life," she says.

Medford Fire-Rescue officials praise Young and Sorensen for remembering their training and putting it into practice.

"The stuff we would have been doing when we arrived on scene had already been done," says deputy fire marshal Samanta Metheny. "It's incredible. The chances of that happening is pretty miraculous."

It's the first time either Young or Sorensen had to put their skills into practice in a real-life scenario. But it's not the first time other club employees have come to the aid of a member in need. In 2005, employees utilized CPR and an AED to save a woman's life after she had a heart attack while playing racquetball.

Latona and the duo who saved his life reunited at the hospital as he recovered. All remember it as an emotional meeting.

"Seeing the two of them, even now I get a little choked up," Latona says.

Young kept playing the incident back in her mind, focusing on minor details and points in the process she says she wishes she'd done better.

"You replay it over and over," she says. "Like a loop, like a projector loop of what happened."

Sorensen says she feels closer to Young.

"We'll just be bonded in a different way," Sorensen says.

A week later, Latona feels good. He plans to start cardiac rehabilitation and has since resumed walking on a treadmill at the gym, ever grateful to two of the employees there.

"They deserve to be recognized," he says. "They made all the difference in the world."

Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or rpfeil@mailtribune.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/ryanpfeil.

Jay Latona is back on the treadmill at Superior Athletic Club Monday. Larry Stauth Jr. / for the Mail Tribune