The first time the other golfers realized something was wrong with Manny Yatco was when his golf cart suddenly veered and went out of control.
The 77-year-old golfer had just teed off for a Pilipino Golf Association event at Golden Eagle Golf Course in Pitt Meadows, then unbeknownst to everyone watching, suffered a massive heart attack.
He would survive it, thanks to a lot of good luck.
As his cart careened off on “autopilot,” it went straight toward the ninth hole – where a trained emergency responder was golfing.
He was also fortunate to be at a golf course that had a defibrillator that would shock Yatco’s heart back to a regular rhythm.
“All of the stars aligned for this guy,” noted Will Ugalde, president of the association.
Maybe not all of the stars – his cart hit a tree and Yatco’s face slammed into the trunk.
Marissa Fragante was golfing with Yatco on that Saturday, Sept. 19.
“Marissa, look at Manny,” someone called to her, and she watched his cart swerving off course, and then hitting the tree.
When she got there, it didn’t look good. Yatco was unconscious, bleeding from his face, and didn’t appear to be breathing.
“My hopes were really down that he would survive it,” she said. “I said ‘Manny, help is coming, hang in there!’”
Help arrived in the person of Matthew Holding, who had been playing the ninth hole when he heard the yelling, and then saw people chasing a golf cart. The 27-year-old Ladner residents works for B.C. Ambulance as an emergency dispatch 9-1-1 operator. He found the unconscious man, who was in obvious medical distress.
At work, Holding often instructs 9-1-1 callers who are with a heart attack patient, telling them what they must do, like when to give chest compressions. These situations can be a daily occurrence for him. Suddenly, for the first time, he was on the person with the patient.
“My training kicked in from work, and having to relay those instructions to people on the street.”
He assessed Yatco’s level of consciousness and breathing, and determined that he needed to start CPR.
Holding said he really wants to commend Golden Eagle for keeping the defibrillator at the clubhouse, and soon one of the staff members arrived with the life-saving device. The automated external defibrillator needs to be properly connected to the patient, and then it can analyze the heart rhythm and determine whether to administer a shock.
Three times the AED told Holding and others to back away from the patient for a shock, and then instructed them to resume CPR.
Yatco’s friend Ferdinand Lontok is also trained in first aid, and assisted Holding, tilting Yatco’s head so he could get air, and talking to him. A retired BC Ambulance paramedic also arrived on the scene, to offer his expertise.
The traumatized golfers could only stand by and watch, but many of them prayed for Manny, they told him later.
“He’s a good guy,” said Lontok. “He’s very supportive to us, and we considered him one of the pillars of the golf association. He’s well respected. And at his age, he can still play.”
By the time the paramedics arrived, Yatco was conscious, breathing, and knew where he was.
Yatco remembered no chest pain or other warning of the major heart attack. He had arrived just in time to tee off, hit his ball on the first hole, got into his cart, and took off.
“As far as I remember, I hadn’t driven 10 meters, then I blacked out,” he said
He briefly regained consciousness while he was lying on the fairway receiving chest compressions. He heard his friend.
“I know I opened my eyes, and I heard Ferdie’s voice: ‘Manny, hang on, we’re all here for you.’”
He was came to during ambulance rides to Ride Meadows and then Royal Columbian Hospitals, and quickly slipped back under.
His first conversation was with a doctor, who told him one of the arteries to his heart had been completely blocked, and the other 70 per cent blocked. They had put in two stents. The doctor told him he was lucky to be alive, and that he had good friends who saved him.
Then the phone started ringing, and slowly he put the story together, from each friend’s call.
“I’m so lucky, with all these people around me,” he said. “God is good.”
“I’m really thankful for Matthew – he has to be recognized,” he said.
Fragante thought so too, and sent a letter to Holding’s employer.
“The man of the hour is the young gentleman who actually saved a life,” she said.
He should be acknowledged for “his presence of mind, his courage, his leadership, and determination to not let got of Manny Yatco.”
Holding and his friend Cole Collins, who called 9-1-1 that day, have been invited to golf with the Pilipino Golf Association at an upcoming Sunday tournament. They will be honorary members for the coming season.
“I’m looking forward to getting back to play a round of golf with them,” said Collins.
“I’m really grateful we were able to help Manny.”