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Three construction workers recognized for life-saving efforts at Surrey job site

After colleague’s cardiac arrest, calm, focused trio performed CPR until paramedics arrived
Sandra Smithman, left, Andrew Walters, Andy Litjens, and Jarek Krupa pose for a photo on Jan. 27, 2023. (Photo: Anna Burns)

Andrew Walters knew something was wrong when he saw his colleague, Andy Litjens, drive an excavator past him at full speed and climb an embankment.

This was March 8, 2021. Walters was at work on a construction site in the 2900-block of 188 Street in Surrey. He quickly jumped into action, stopped the excavator and called 911.

Jarek Krupa, who had received a CPR validation only days before, rushed over to help. When Krupa climbed up on the excavator, he saw Litjens slumped over with blood coming out of his ears. Not knowing what had happened, he and Walters helped lower Litjens to the ground.

Krupa suspected Litjens had a cardiac arrest. After they lowered him to the ground, they immediately started CPR.

Sandra Smithman, the site safety officer, also rushed to help and the three took turns performing CPR until BCEHS paramedics arrived.

Ryan Scambler, a primary care paramedic stationed in Cloverdale, was one of the paramedics that day. When he got to the scene, he could see the three co-workers taking turns performing CPR.

Scambler, his partner, and several other paramedics, including several Advanced Care Paramedics jumped into action and within 17 minutes, they had “a return of stimulation.” Litjens was taken to hospital.

Litjens is now recovered and back at work.

On Jan. 27, the BC Emergency Health Services held an awards ceremony to honour the three co-workers’ life-saving actions. Walters, Krupa, and Smithman were presented with Vital Link awards, which are given to people whose quick-thinking actions and skills helped a bystander in a cardiac arrest emergency.

Lan Kennedy is an emergency medical call taker who received the 911 call that day. Kennedy said the three colleagues were so calmed and focused on doing every thing they could to help save Litjen’s Life.

“Obviously all came together and I don’t often get to ever see a patient that you know, I was talking about on the phone or see the people that I was talking to so it’s just a really amazing experience,” said Kennedy.

Rob Long, one of the advanced care paramedics who responded to the call, reminded Litjens how lucky he was to survive.

“I don’t know if you realize like, how fortunate you are. The chance of survival to discharge is less than one per cent,” said Long

“It’s like winning the lottery and the prize is your life,” said Litjens in response.

At the ceremony, Litjens’ adult daughter approached the award recipients in tears and thanked them for saving her father’s life.

Lucy Litjens, Andy’s mother, recalled receiving a call from her daughter on that day.

“My heart just about stopped too,” said Lucy. “We sure are lucky to have him back is a very nice son.”

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Anna Burns

About the Author: Anna Burns

I started with Black Press Media in the fall of 2022 as a multimedia journalist after finishing my practicum at the Surrey Now-Leader.
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