NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

February 22, 2013

Straight from the heart

Merrimac trainer honors late brother through CPR education

By Katie Lovett
Features Editor

---- — Growing up as one of 12 children in Saugus, Beth Fahey formed tight bonds and close friendships with her many siblings.

That connection and love that they share continues to impact Fahey today as the Merrimac resident strives to honor the memory and legacy of her older brother, Jack Fahey of Saugus, who died suddenly two years ago at age 57.

“He was a really great guy,” Fahey said yesterday. “He had the Andy of Mayberry hometown garage where everyone went.” Retired police officers and firefighters would often stop in to visit and catch up on news.

Those buddies, retired firefighters, found Jack unresponsive one Friday morning. He had suffered a heart attack. His loved ones, including his wife, four kids and four grandchildren, never had the chance to say goodbye.

“That’s the tragedy of heart disease,” Fahey said. “A heart attack won’t discriminate, and it’s not on your appointment calendar.”

Jack was a smoker, Fahey said, and had experienced some discomfort in his chest a few months prior to his heart attack, but doctors had checked and cleared him. Other than that, there were no symptoms or warning signs.

“You just don’t know,” she added.

While attempts at CPR were futile in her brother’s case, many times, the action can make a life-saving difference.

That fact prompted Fahey, the owner of BrickHouse Fitness, to offer adult and infant CPR and AED training classes at her facility in Merrimac Square. The first class is set for Feb. 28, in honor of February’s significance as national Heart Health Month.

Talking with the members of her gym, Fahey said she was shocked to realize the majority of her clients were not CPR or AED certified, or had let their certification lapse. By learning the important skills to assess an emergency, as well as how to perform CPR or use a portable AED machine, people will be ready if the situation arises.

“By knowing CPR, you’ve done everything you can to be prepared,” she added.

Fahey has also had to perform CPR on her own family members. Her youngest son, Billy, now 25, was born with multiple medical issues that affected his cardiac, neurological and respiratory systems. In two instances, Fahey watched her son stop breathing and performed CPR.

While she and family are attentive to their collective cardiac history — two of her other brothers have also suffered heart attacks — as a personal trainer, Fahey said, she’s well aware of the state of the nation’s collective health. She’s hopeful these classes will also help to raise awareness for heart health and the fact that heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women.

“It’s the collective things that we do, day to day, that matter,” she said, including eating healthy, getting exercise, limiting alcoholic beverages and not smoking.

BrickHouse Fitness’ first adult and infant CPR and AED training class will begin at 7 p.m. on Thursday. The 21/2-hour class will be taught by Cole Welch, an American Heart Association-certified CPR instructor. This first session will be offered for a discounted price of $45. Fahey hopes to continue to hold certification classes every three months. Additional training courses will be offered for $55. The CPR dummies have been sponsored by local businesses and individuals. An AED device has been purchased through family donations in honor of Jack Fahey.

“For me, to offer this to the community every three months, that’s something I can do,” Fahey said. “That’s paying Jackie’s life forward, paying his spirit forward. He did an awful lot of good for people.”