Duncan’s Wayne Penna is grateful to be alive after collapsing near the Chemainus River on Sunday evening. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)

Duncan’s Wayne Penna is grateful to be alive after collapsing near the Chemainus River on Sunday evening. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)

Duncan man counts blessings after sudden scare

Friend, firefighters and BC Ambulance saved Wayne Penna’s life

Wayne Penna has a lot to be grateful for.

The Duncan man had a sudden health problem while showing a friend around the Chemainus River on Sunday evening, and if not for that friend and the efforts of Crofton volunteer firefighters and BC Ambulance personnel, the outcome might have been very different.

“If he wasn’t there, I probably wouldn’t be here right now,” Penna acknowledged. “It was a scary situation. I owe a lot to him. He actually saved my life. He got the fire/rescue and ambulance in there.”

A labourer at Flintstones Masonry in Victoria, Penna was taking his foreman from work, Tim Duggan, and Duggan’s girlfriend and nine-year-old daughter to a waterfall on the river. He waited below while the other three climbed the waterfall, but Duggan realized something was wrong and went back. Penna said his heart was racing, but thought he would be OK. Five or 10 minutes later, he laid down and told Duggan it might be a good idea to call 911.

“I put him on a beach blanket I had,” Duggan recalled. “He said he was cold and had sharp pains running up his side. I didn’t have much on me, but I put my sweater over him and started a fire beside him.”

Duggan sent his girlfriend and his daughter back to where they had parked, about a 20-minute hike from the river. They met up with Crofton firefighters, who were able to drive to the site, with an ambulance following soon after.

“I was looking at him, thinking hurry up, hurry up,” Duggan said. “He was coming in and out of consciousness, twitching and shaking. For 15 minutes I was saying, ‘Stay with us. Don’t go under.’”

Responders asked Duggan if Penna was on drugs, but he assured them that wasn’t the case. Previous health problems had cost Penna a kidney, and Duggan knew the other one had given him problems, but he wasn’t sure if that was connected.

“The last thing he mumbled to me was that he couldn’t feel his left side,” Duggan said. “He thought he was going to die on that beach. He had that look of fear on his face.”

Penna was taken to Cowichan District Hospital, and Duggan contacted Penna’s mother on Facebook. Penna’s wife was at a concert in Vancouver, and Duggan went to the ferry on Monday morning to pick her up. Penna has been undergoing tests at the hospital, but exactly what happened to him on Sunday hasn’t been determined yet.

It was by sheer good fortune that Duggan was with Penna at the river when he collapsed. Penna had seen on Facebook that Duggan was in Chemainus and invited him to the river for the evening. Otherwise, Penna probably would have gone alone.

“It turned out OK,” Penna said. “I usually go swimming by myself. Next time I’ll think twice.”