It was a typical exercise session, one of about 40 fitness classes the city of Hillsboro offers in a given week at the Shute Park Aquatic & Recreation Center. But on July 24, the workout turned out to be anything but HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - Former aerospace engineer Jack Lettieri collapsed while exercising at the Shute Park Recreation Center.

At approximately 9:30 a.m. on that Wednesday, 72-year-old Jack Lettieri, one of the 20 participants in the class, collapsed during a 45-minute “cardio circuit program,” which is described as a low-impact group exercise session designed to promote cardio health, increase muscle strength and strengthen core muscles.

Witnesses said Lettieri, who had been a regular participant in the class, simply fell to the floor and was motionless.

In the next few moments, a group of city workers and Hillsboro resident Dave Woodford, who was a participant in the program, teamed up to save Lettieri’s life.

The instructor, Gabrielle Johnston, immediately began CPR (cardio-pulmonary resuscitation). Woodford then took over the CPR so Johnston could make sure help was coming.

Paula Rose, aquatics manager at the Shute Park facility, responded as soon as she heard of the emergency.

“When I became aware of the situation, I grabbed an AED (automatic external defibrillator),” said Rose, who has worked for the city since 2007. by: HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: DOUG BURKHARDT - Hillsboro Mayor Jerry Willey (back row, center) and Bruce Montgomery with the Hillsboro Fire Department (left) presented lifesaving awards to honor several city employees after their actions helped save a heart attack victim. Holding their awards (left to right) are: Paula Rose, Lori Mason, Jon Burbank and Gabrielle Johnston.

At the same time, pool operator Jonathan Burbank made the necessary emergency calls and guided fire department and ambulance crews to the scene.

Rose arrived with recreation program supervisor Lori Mason, and the two of them took over CPR and applied the AED.

“We hooked him up to the AED — it called for one shock,” explained Rose.

They administered one shock from the AED in an effort to jump-start Lettieri’s heart, and then resumed CPR. After two rounds of 30 chest compressions, Lettieri gasped and began breathing again.

After emergency medical personnel arrived and stabilized Lettieri, he was transported to Tuality Hospital for additional treatment.

Lettieri said he did not recall much about the incident.

“My wife and I have been exercising three times a week at the recreation center,” he said. “I remember we were 30 minutes into a 45-minute class, and we had just finished one exercise. I don’t remember anything after that until I woke up in the emergency room.”

Doctors told Lettieri he’d had a heart attack, and put a stent in his heart.

“I’ve never had a heart attack before, and never had any of the classic symptoms,” he said.

Lettieri expressed gratitude for those who helped him.

“Obviously, I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for their intervention and knowledge and quick action,” said Lettieri, a former aerospace engineer who worked for Boeing. “I’ve spoken to each of them individually and thanked them.”

Lettieri, who has lived in Hillsboro since 2006, added there was another twist to what happened to him.

“That particular day, I wasn’t planning to go to the class,” he pointed out. “I was a bit stiff and sore from some work I’d been doing at home, and thought I’d sit this one out. At the last minute, I decided to go. It was divine intervention. If I had been at home when that happened, I’m not sure they could have gotten to me in time.”

On Aug. 6, Mayor Jerry Willey and Bruce Montgomery, the public information officer with the Hillsboro Fire Department, presented plaques to honor those who worked to save Lettieri’s life.

“For these actions — the swift application of CPR, the rapid deployment of an AED and the speedy access of the 911 system, we are proud to present these lifesaver awards to each of you,” said Willey.

Rose said the main thing was that Lettieri was OK.

“In a situation like that, your training just kicks in,” said Rose. “We know what we need to do, and practice weekly making sure we’re up to speed and working seamlessly. We’re just happy we were there to help. It was a great honor to be recognized, but the best honor of all is knowing we made a difference in a person’s life.”

Lettieri has enrolled in a cardio rehab program at Tuality, and plans to take it easy.

“For now,” he said, “I’m not going back to the exercise class.”

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