By Eric Stevick Herald Writer
EVERETT — An Everett youth pastor offered hope to his congregation Friday when he briefly opened his eyes for the first time since collapsing at a gym Monday morning.
Cameron Stevens, 24, was playing basketball with two colleagues from Calvary Everett church when he had a seizure. His heart stopped on the court at the Everett YMCA.
In many ways, the Lake Stevens High School graduate was in the right place at the right time. He was surrounded by people trained in CPR and there was technology close at hand to help get his heart beating again.
Stevens had been playing for about 10 minutes. He’d barely cracked a sweat before he collapsed.
The Rev. Billy Wheeler began CPR while church intern Trevor Thomas went to the front desk for help and to have someone call 911.
“When it’s someone who is a friend and a loved one, it’s a lot harder to do,” Wheeler said. “I didn’t want to believe he needed CPR. He is only 24 years old.”
Wheeler, who served time in the Marines, said training kicked in.
Three YMCA staff members — Ryan French, Shoshana Pearlman and Kristy Kentch — came to Stevens’ side, taking over the CPR and working with Wheeler to hook up an Automated External Defibrillator to analyze the young man’s heart rhythms.
“You could just tell from his complexion that he was losing oxygen and his heart was not running effectively,” said Pearlman, the Y’s aquatics coordinator.
Like Wheeler, she is thankful for the training she and her colleagues have had over the years.
“It’s ingrained,” she said. “It’s just kind of second nature. When push came to shove, they were on top of it.”
By the time Everett Fire Department paramedics arrived minutes later, Stevens had a faint heart beat.
“They did CPR for a long time,” Wheeler said.
Everett fire marshal Rick Robinson said Monday’s life-saving efforts underscore the importance of people knowing CPR. “It can make a huge difference in survival rates,” he said.
Everett YMCA director Ted Wenta was on hand to hear an Everett paramedic praise his staff for doing everything right.
“We are so proud of them,” he said.
Stevens was kept in a medically induced coma in the Intensive Care Unit at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett. His body temperature was lowered to help his brain recover.
On Tuesday night, the church held a prayer service for him.
“He’s just amazing with the youth,” said Ashley Morin, who attends the church. “You meet him and he just radiates this joy.”
Prayers from across the country have been shared in recent days through social media.
Wheeler said there will be more prayers on his behalf at Sunday’s church service.
“The message is that God uses tragedy in our lives to draw strength from Him,” he said. Wheeler said he is likely to quote form Issaiah 41.10:
So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
On Friday, Stevens was listed in serious condition at Providence. Wheeler said the young pastor opened his eyes for about 45 seconds and was able to make eye contact with his wife, Kelsy, who was by his side.
A fund for medical and possible rehabilitation expenses has been established for Stevens at US Bank in the name of “Heart for Cameron.”
Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446; firstname.lastname@example.org.