Bonnie's Story: Saved by CPR
Bonnie Beach is lucky to be alive. What started as a routine day and walk to work ended with heart surgery and a five-week stay in rehabilitative care. But thanks to the quick action, courage and compassion of two strangers, Bonnie is alive, thankful and on the road to recovery.
The last moment Bonnie remembers is walking to work and suddenly feeling very weak and faint. She remembers trying to project her voice as she began to fall, calling "Help me! I think I'm having a heart attack."
Jason Stein was biking to his job and heard Bonnie's cry for help. He responded quickly and was even able to catch Bonnie's head in his hands as she fell to the pavement. He had taken CPR a few years earlier and was aware of the updated hands-only CPR recommendations. He began chest compressions as another passer-by, Jefren Olsen called 911 and relayed the dispatchers' instructions to Jason. Because of their quick response, Bonnie was breathing by the time paramedics arrived. They had saved her life.
At the hospital, Bonnie's heart ruptured during surgery and she lost a great deal of blood. Her life was saved again, this time by UW Health surgeons.
Bonnie has a history of heart disease in her family. She lost her father when he was just 42 years old. Bonnie, now 64, thought to herself, "Maybe it missed me." She had been managing her high blood pressure with medication for 12 years, following a low sodium diet and walking to maintain her health. Looking back, it appears Bonnie had a minor heart attack a few days prior. She thought it was acid reflux and carried on with her day.
Bonnie spent five weeks in a rehabilitative center and continues with rehab today. Though her heart was badly damaged, she remained committed to her rehab program and focused on strengthening her body. And now, she's doing better than expected.
Bonnie feels tremendous gratitude toward the men who helped save her life, and though they don't think of themselves as heroes, she certainly does. As Jason says, "It wouldn't have occurred to me do anything else." It had been 10 years since he had taken a CPR course and was vaguely aware of the changes in recommendations, but had not had formal training in the hands-only CPR. He credits the 911 dispatcher who calmly talked him and Jefren through the process until the paramedics arrived. The experience was so powerful that Jason has since retaken a CPR course. He found it very helpful to have formal instruction in hands-only CPR as well as in using an Automated External Defibrillator or AED. He says, "It was very humbling to realize that even with a little knowledge and the help of the 911 dispatcher, we were able to be of value."
Bonnie couldn't agree more. Both she and Jason encourage people to take CPR training. Besides local classes, you can find instructions online and in some first aid mobile applications. Bonnie says, "To have the ability to save a life like that is remarkable." She adds, "And you never know whose life you might save – it could be a family member, friend or neighbor. It is truly a matter of life and death."
For information on CPR courses, including hands-only CPR and Full CPR, which combines rescue breathing with chest compressions, contact your local American Red Cross or American Heart Association chapters.