According to In-Shape District Manager Chuck Ellis, Donato is a longtime club member who visits the club often for a workout and swim. Before his collapse — which, according to American Medical Response officials, was a sudden heart attack — he was seen on the club monitors going into the men’s locker room at about 11:38 a.m.
“Two minutes later, a (club) member came running out and informed us an individual had collapsed,” Ellis said. “The person at the desk paged the general manager (Maximus Clean) and called 911.”
Working out near the locker room with his family was off-duty Detective Tim Bauer of Tracy Police Department. He said he heard the commotion and rushed into the locker room to see if he could help.
“I was going to check on the guy who fainted — I walked in there, and he wasn’t breathing,” Bauer said. “I’ve done CPR before, and there was a little bit of luck involved. I did what anyone else would do.”
Bauer immediately joined the club’s spin class instructor, Gordon Woo, on the floor to perform CPR until Clean entered the locker room carrying the club’s automated external defibrillator, a machine that sends an electric shock to restore natural heart rhythms.
After a couple of shocks, the defibrillator advised them that Donato was breathing on his own, Ellis said. Bauer and Woo then continued with chest compressions until the paramedics arrived to stabilize Donato and take him to Sutter Tracy Community Hospital.
Donato was later taken to St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Stockton, where he reportedly underwent a quadruple bypass for blocked arteries around his heart. According to hospital officials, he was released Wednesday, Aug. 15, and returned to his home in Tracy.
Donato was expected to make a full recovery, according to a family member.
According to American Medical Response spokesman David Durand, the portable defibrillator made Donato’s rescue possible after a sudden cardiac arrest.
“Out of all the cardiac arrest calls we go on, we save approximately 4 percent, and 1 percent of those actually walk out of the hospital with a full recovery,” he said. “James is a freaking miracle.”
In a few weeks, AMR officials plan to reunite Donato with his rescuers for a ceremony to award each rescuer, including the paramedics and dispatchers, a certificate and lapel pin.
The key to Donato’s rescue was the defibrillator, Durand said, which he said businesses rarely have.
“Try to find somebody with one of those — good luck,” he said. “It doesn’t happen often.”
All In-Shape clubs have the devices, Ellis said, and this was the third time it was used at the Tracy Boulevard club to make a rescue. Other rescues, he said, included a man who collapsed on a racquetball court and another member who experienced an aneurism.
Officials at the club were unable to comment Thursday, Aug. 16, regarding the outcome of the two other people who were initially saved by the club’s difibrillator.
“They did a great job,” Ellis said. “We’re happy Tim stepped in, and Gordon, Maximus and Tiffany at the front desk — whole bunch of people involved in making this successful. This is one of those good stories with a good ending.”