YMCA Team Saves Wooden’s Life

A team effort saved Roger Wooden’s life on the morning of February 28 at the Orthman Community YMCA.

Roger, 73, of Lexington started his morning like usual by walking, lifting weights and playing pickleball in the YMCA gym.

Shortly after 9 a.m., he started to feel lightheaded.

“I felt like the world was going around, and I was going to pass out,” Roger said.

He figured it was his type-2 diabetes making him feel that way, so he approached Kresha Schwartz at the YMCA front desk and asked if they had any juice.

Kresha went to grab a glucose tablet, and by the time she returned, Roger had collapsed. He was lying on the floor with a bleeding head.

That’s when the YMCA’s emergency preparedness training kicked in.

YMCA CEO Riley Gruntorad was called out of a meeting. Riley, Y member Tammy Reynolds and Y Instructor Bobbie Jo Messersmith attended to Roger’s bleeding head, started life-saving measures and called 911.

They determined Roger was not breathing and did not have a pulse so they shocked him with the AED and started CPR. After two minutes, they reevaluated, had to shock his heart with the AED again and continued CPR. They started to see a pulse. By that time (less than 5 minutes after he collapsed), two emergency responder vehicles arrived and professional emergency responders took over. The professional responders shocked Roger’s heart again, and he started to fully regain consciousness.

Roger was transported to Kearney Regional Hospital where he stayed for a week for tests and recovery. Although he was extremely sore from the CPR, he’s not complaining because it saved his life.

He had a defibrillator implanted to regulate his heart. About three weeks later, Roger returned to the Y to start exercising again. He purchased bagels and fruit for the team that helped save his life at the Y that day.

“I wished I could have taken them all out for steaks,” Roger said, “We just can’t praise this Y enough to have people qualified to do the things they did.”

Riley said the Y staff is meticulous about ensuring every staff member is trained in CPR and First Aid and that everyone knows what to do in an emergency. They also have a checklist to ensure that batteries are working in AEDs and that fire extinguishers are working.

The YMCA partners with Central Community College to offer CRP/First Aid classes, which are generally taught by Rex Adams.

The Lexington Fire Chief and a Lexington police officer are YMCA Board Members. The fire department partners with the Y for mock fire drills, and firefighters do some of their physical training at the YMCA.

“We work really well together, and when an emergency happens as it did, they were here right away,” Riley said. “We are thankful for those partnerships and those people.”

Riley said he was glad to see that the training, partnerships and preparedness all worked how it was supposed to the morning of Feb. 28.

“I was proud of my team,” Riley said. “Everyone did what they needed to do.”

The incident happened at a busy time in the YMCA lobby. Community members and others also stepped in to help direct traffic or help however they could.

“It was the team that was all around that day at the Y that helped Roger be here today,” Riley said. “If he was anywhere else that day, it might have been different.”

Roger is also counting his blessings that he was at the Y that day.

“I was so fortunate to be at the Y when it happened to have people trained who can handle situations like this,” Roger said.



  • Bonnie Atwood Posted May 1, 2023 9:03 pm

    The morning that Roger’s incident occurred I was walking with his wife on the track upstairs. When a friend ran upstairs to get her we had no idea what was going on. Although it was very scary and we knew that he wasn’t breathing the staff acted very quickly and confidently. They definitely saved his life! I have always loved our Y and the staff but now I have a new appreciation for their ability to keep us as safe as possible!

  • Don Cyr Posted May 2, 2023 1:23 pm

    Your able staff is to be commended for breathing life back into my Vietnam Buddy, Roger Wooden . Am certainly happy his family and friends will be able to continue to love this good man, as he does them. A firm salute to you all. Thank you.

  • Roger Wooden Posted May 2, 2023 7:15 pm

    Thank you very much my friends, you never know when something can happen like this. I am sp appreciative for everyone, I will forever be in debt to you all. Thanks for a second chance in life

  • Marty Wooden Posted May 2, 2023 7:28 pm

    Thank you Y friends and EMT’S for responding so fast when my husband had his heart attack.As we age don’t have reservations about going and exercising at the Y, they have very capable people there that are trained to help in any emergency. God bless you all.

    • Chuck Keown Posted May 9, 2023 4:51 am

      You are the cream of the crop, Roger. I’m very thankful that you are doing well, Roger. Hope you have many more good years ahead, my friend.

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