from the Palm Beach (Florida) Post
It was a Wednesday morning like any other at the Williams house. Dad Gary and mom Sheila were up before dawn, working out to Tony Horton’s punishing P90X DVD, a six-days-a-week ritual in their West Palm Beach home.
Suddenly, five minutes into the warmup, Gary began losing consciousness, gasping for air, stumbling backward. Sheila caught her 55-year-old husband in her arms as he went into full cardiac arrest.
She immediately called to her two oldest sons – Caleb, 15, and Ben, 13 – to start CPR.
The brothers raced from their bedrooms, and as Sheila dialed 911, they performed chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on their father. “We knew what had to be done,” says Caleb. “It clicked right away.”
That’s because Caleb and Ben – pianists and black belts in karate who also enjoy skateboarding and video games – are first aid- and CPR-certified, thanks to the First Aid merit badge they earned as members of Boy Scout Troop 13. Gary is one of the troop’s scoutmasters and the reason the brothers joined the Boy Scouts – a lifesaving idea, as it turns out.
“Our dad pushed us into it,” Caleb says. “We like it now, but before we were into it, it was just the thought of Boy Scouts – ‘Ah, it’s going to be boring and stuff,’ but it’s a lot of fun.”
After suffering the heart attack in early December, Gary was placed in a hypothermic coma for a week, and medications kept him sedated for another three weeks. He calls Jan. 10 his “awakening.”
“That was quite a shock to wake up a month later and say, ‘Where have I been?’ ” says Gary. “And to learn that your two sons had a hand in keeping you alive was quite humbling.”
The Williams expect Gary will finally return home – from Bethesda Memorial Hospital’s Cornell Institute for Rehabilitation Medicine in Boynton Beach, where he’s undergone physical, speech and occupational therapy – on Saturday.
But he’s due for a permanent defibrillator and possibly further heart surgery, and there’s no time frame for when he’ll be able to return to work as a construction project manager.
“The medical bills are pretty steep,” says Sheila, who home-schools Caleb and Ben.
The Williams have three other children: 9-year-old Daniel, 7-year-old Andrew and 4-year-old Seline.
Daniel and Andrew will join the Boy Scouts when they’re a bit older, says Gary, who hopes Caleb and Ben will attain the rank of Eagle Scout.
“What a wonderful couple of guys they were,” says Gary. “And they are.”
How to help
A fund has been established to help pay Gary Williams’ medical bills: PNC Bank, 399 Forest Hill Blvd., West Palm Beach, FL 33405. Payee: Sheila Williams.