Quick Response from Medics save RBC GranFondo Whistler Cyclists Life after Cardiac Arrest
At 7:00 a.m. on Saturday 7th September 2019, Richard Atkins lined up on the start line of the 122km RBC GranFondo Whistler, little did he know what lay ahead for him that morning ...
As has been the case throughout Richard's business and sporting life, he took the best coaching advice and trained extensively over the past 12 months. His goal was to qualify for the 2020 UCI World Championships.
Under the tutelage of Jamie and Sharon Armstrong from Method Indoor Cycling (methodindoorcycling.com), Richard knew the training was paying off. At another 100km event 6 weeks earlier, he finished inside the top 30 overall and 2nd in his age group. Since then, training had also included an amazing ride from the US/Canada border up Mount Baker, it was exhilarating, and his climbing was better than ever. All was pointing to a great performance at Whistler.
10 to 12 minutes into the race, his goal was shattered. Feeling faint on the bike after the first small climb, he pulled over and managed to unclip. The next thing he knew, he was surrounded by fellow cyclists, calls to 911 were being made and eventually passed out. Richard woke up in the ambulance and learned that he had suffered a cardiac arrest, CPR was performed and the ambulance team “jump started” his heart twice! He was rushed to the incredible heart unit at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver, just 10 minutes away. A fantastic team of nurses, consultants and support staff took care of himover the next week.
It all felt very surreal. Richard had always been known as being one of the fittest guys in his my peer group, why had this happened? The reality was that it had happened, great selfless people saved his life and the proximity to the hospital when the episode occurred ensured he had the best possible care as quickly as possible.
After the traumatic experience, Richard is still coming to grips with the big questions – Why was my life saved? What is my new purpose? However, a week of tests, calm reflection and above all else having an armchair view to witness an integrated, cohesive, driven, focused, happy and high performing team, where the performance and outcomes literally determines life and death has been a privilege.
Richard wants to share his experience and how it has changed his life:
1. Creating a positive culture
What can be achieved by creating a positive culture? Answer – anything and ultimately it can save lives.
The culture across all the teams at St. Paul’s was endemic. This is one of the most stressful places you can imagine, where literally people live or die based on making the right decisions and acting as a team quickly and professionally is imperative.
How did the culture manifest itself?
Longevity - so many of the staff have been part of the team for 10+ years and everyone I spoke to, loved the environment. Newcomers into the team all want to buy in to the ethos.
Team – there are many amazing individuals within this team and clearly a management strata. However, these guys work together as a seamless organization, each member knowing their role and place within a team ethos.
Patient (Customer) Focus – whilst I have often questioned that the customer is always right, the customer does come first. Without customers, their continued patronage of a business and/or their referrals, we do not have businesses. This was exemplified at St. Paul’s, where nothing was too small for the staff to help a patient or to build a rapport and inject humour into such a serious environment. Successful businesses gain partners/customers, but they nurture and grow relationships and clients.
Integrity – from the CEO downwards at St. Paul’s, integrity within their own teams and when interacting with patients (and their families) is at the heart (all puns intended) of everything they do.
Does this culture exist within your team or organization? If not, what can you do to effect change?
Commentary:- this positive culture was equally exemplified by Neil McKinnon and the team at RBC GranFondo (rbcgranfondo.com) who not only organized an amazing event, but their support to my wife and I during and after the event has been exemplary.
2. Patience and Balance
Throughout my working and sporting life, I have always given everything I could, trained hard and ensured I was in the best possible shape for success and endeavoured to lead by example. Often my work ethic has been well ahead of my underlying talent, but time and time again has delivered the best possible results.
I have and always been committed to my teams, colleagues, friends and family, but sometimes in striving for the best, have demonstrated impatience with people not being on the same page as me or not running at the same pace.
This past week, I have had no choice but to be patient, focus on myself and my wellbeing and let the medical team test and lead me in my recovery. This has been an amazingly calming experience and a lesson I am taking forward. I can see many things so much more clearly now, especially where balance hasn’t existed in my life – given my near “all or nothing” nature.
In pursuing goals (and I still believe in start lines and goals), we rarely take time for ourselves to step back, assess and if necessary reset. The “hamster wheel” or “rat race” takes over, the next job, the next promotion, working through the night to meet deadlines, just remaining in a position to earn the money irrespective of happiness or fulfilment. This doesn’t just impact each of us physically and mentally, but also those around us – colleagues, family, friends. Give yourself permission - take a minute, hour or day to reset and focus on just you. From a business perspective and learning from the St. Paul’s example, your performance will increase if you are in an engaged, happy, fulfilling environment and the organization itself and those people who are most important to you significantly benefit as a result.
3. Never too old to learn
Whether learning to improve my technique on a bike through to fundamental life lessons and experiences, 2019 has been a heck of a learning curve for me. Never be afraid to learn, surround yourself with people/colleagues who understand the goals but can bring a different or challenging perspective to achieve them. Sometimes, not always, a step into the unknown can be life changing!
4. Resetting and looking forward
I have been incredibly fortunate to have been saved by professional, quick thinking people who did the right things at the right time. Several of the team at St. Paul’s remarked that I was one of only two cases in the past 10 years, who had recovered so quickly from a cardiac arrest with no damage physically or mentally. I intend to make the most of this new opportunity and clearly, I have been given a message.
Whilst looking and feeling fantastic, I will pace myself back, but already several opportunities have presented themselves professionally, socially and voluntarily. I am connecting with heart buddies globally and it’s amazing what so many inspiring people have achieved. These are driven, talented and humble people who will make a difference.
I do know my purpose is to inspire, develop and coach both individuals and businesses to optimize what’s possible, but at the same time taking on board my new life lessons.
Thank you for the amazing support I have already been given and look forward to connecting with many of you soon. As you can see from the picture below, a week later I am not looking too bad!
Richard's passion is re-igniting businesses, building and developing successful teams/people, bringing new ideas and thinking to organizations for either corporates and/or mentoring SME companies and individuals.
Photo: Richard Atkins (left) with Jamie Armstrong, Founder Method Indoor Cycling (right).