Working Out Saved Brian’s Life: Literally

by Megy Karydes | Mar 11, 2015
Brian Smolicek has Galter LifeCenter to thank for saving his life. That’s not a euphemism. It was the quick thinking of the team at Chicago’s only medical fitness center that helped the 52-year-old when he blacked out as he was preparing to take Laura Olsen’s spin class last October.
Photo: From l. to r.: Michael Kane, Luke Cutler, Brian Smolicek, Linda Granato, Heidi Lujan and Kim Richards.

Smolicek admits much of that day is a blur after he passed out. October 29, 2014 started like many others when he visited Galter LifeCenter. A former patient of Swedish Covenant Hospital’s cardiac rehabilitation program—a program that caters specifically to cardiac patients—Smolicek knew staying fit was important to his long-term health. Because of this, he committed to working out about five days a week, doing everything from cardio and bicycling to leg and upper body exercises.

As he prepared for class, Smolicek says he began to feel lightheaded and short of breath. Laura Olsen, a personal trainer and group fitness instructor at the LifeCenter, knew of Smolicek’s heart condition and recommended he check in with the cardiac rehab unit. When he suddenly collapsed, the team sprang into action. Galter LifeCenter staff members used paddles to help him and once the ambulance arrived, they immediately hooked him up with morphine. 

“They saved my life,” says Smolicek. “No doubt about it. Had I been somewhere else, I would have been dead.”

Feeling safe at Galter LifeCenter

Unlike other health and fitness facilities, Galter LifeCenter is unique in that it’s the only certified medical fitness center in Chicago. This means that the services it provides go beyond those of a traditional fitness center by focusing on medical fitness and partnering with medical professionals at neighboring Swedish Covenant Hospital. 

Additionally, each staff member is CPR/AED certified and holds multiple degrees, licenses and certifications in their line of work.  

This distinction wasn’t lost on Smolicek when he decided to join Galter LifeCenter after his prescribed time in cardiac rehabilitation ended. “That was the reason I joined,” he says. “I said to myself, ‘you know, with your heart condition, and you’re doing cardio exercises, it might be better if you did join just in case something happens.’ And it did happen.”

Smolicek is so impressed with how quickly each staff member responded in an emergency. “Each person on the crash team had a specific job,” he says, recalling briefly what happened around him before he completely lost consciousness on October 29. “And I’ve been there when they’ve had other instances and the response time has been unbelievably fast. By the time the paramedics come, they have all the info, the vitals, the person’s EKG, ready for the paramedics. It’s a very fine oiled-machine. Without that, I don’t know what would have happened. I do thank them for saving my life.”

Side benefit to working out at Galter LifeCenter: Making friends
Smolicek is outgoing and happy by nature. Even through heart issues, back surgeries, managing his lupus and waiting to hear whether he has leukemia, he chooses to keep a positive attitude, eat right and stay active. 

Among the ways he stays active is going out with his friends regularly, including individuals he’s met at Galter LifeCenter. 

“I’ve made a lot of friends through Galter,” says Smolicek, who always takes the time to smile at other members and wish them a good day. He has even started a new business venture with another Galter LifeCenter member.
When Smolicek isn’t working out at Galter LifeCenter or visiting his doctors at Swedish Covenant Hospital, he enjoys life by reading, spending time with his two-year-old grandson or seeing a show. “I don’t want to let my disability slow me down,” he says.

Smolicek feels indebted to: Michael Kane, Luke Cutler, Linda Granato, Heidi Lujan, Kim Richards, Laura Olsen, Devin Garcia (an intern at the time), Mike Fleming, Scott Micheals, Eric Hedstrom and Jonathan Reyes at Galter LifeCenter. He says that if it weren’t for their quick reactions and help that day in October, he feels strongly that he wouldn’t be here talking with us today.

Learn more about membership here.

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