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Quick action at Fort Mill YMCA credited with saving man’s life

There wasn’t time to think – they just knew they needed to act.

The quick action of staff at the Fort Mill YMCA in Baxter is credited for saving the life of a man who otherwise could have died from a heart attack.

“Everyone worked together like a fine-oiled machine,” said fitness instructor Kim Hefner, one of several people who helped save Gilbert Anderson’s life Sept. 8.

At about 6:15 p.m. on that day, staff at the Fort Mill branch YMCA responded to a fall on the upstairs exercise floor. Anderson, 64, was working out on a machine. For what happened next, he’d need staff to tell him.

“I never knew,” Anderson said. “All I know is I was on an exercise machine and the next thing I know I’m in a hospital and I’ve had a quadruple bypass.”

Initially, those who came to his aid didn’t know what was going on either.

“We weren’t sure what was happening,” said Branch Director Rommel RitaRita, “but we were sure he wasn’t breathing.”

As a personal trainer, Richard Watson sometimes gets paid just to stand around and watch others work. That’s what he was doing when Anderson fell.

“The whole thing was surprising,” Watson said. “It’s the first person I’ve ever seen who was unresponsive.”

Watson and someone else rolled Anderson over. Hefner, yoga instructor April Davis and someone else helped start chest compressions, then the automatic defibrillator.

“They’re very easy to use,” Hefner said. “It just told us what to do.”

Folks on the floor with Anderson aren’t sure who all was there, given the chaotic nature of what was happening. The employees did recall their training. All staff members need basic first aid certification to work at the YMCA, so the gym floor could’ve been among the best places for such an incident to occur.

Watson said he paid plenty of attention during first aid training. If he ever has to take more classes like it, he’ll hardly need reminding to listen up. Not after seeing a life-and-death encounter.

“It’s burned in now,” Watson said.

Anderson doesn’t know what happened or who to thank, but he knows the “selfless acts” on that floor saved him.

“I don’t believe in chance,” Anderson said. “I believe there were people in place because God had them in place, because He’s not done with me.”

Anderson has a wife of 42 years, three sons and two granddaughters, among others. He has a job he enjoys with Fort Mill-based Daimler Trucks North America. He has retirement on the horizon. Now, he has recovery time he plans to spend reorganizing his thoughts and actions.

“I could’ve been cremated by now,” Anderson said. “It changes the perspective of my life.”

Anderson gets choked up thinking about the people he still doesn’t know, who brought him back after the heart attack. RitaRita said he’s thankful, but not surprised, that staff and gym members would rush to help.

“There’s a genuine caring for our members here,” he said.

Waiting to find out about a rehab facility, Anderson wasn’t sure what coming days will hold. He was in decent shape before the incident, no blood pressure or cholesterol issues. Nothing in his life before could have prepared him for what happened, Anderson said.

So, he’ll rest. And think about all the rest he still has in front of him.

“I get to think about what I get to do with the rest of my life, because I still have a rest of my life,” Anderson said.