Robyn Shields was playing hide-and-seek with her grandchildren at their Baton Rouge apartment when she started to feel light-headed. A few minutes after sitting down, she later fell unconscious as her heart and breathing stopped.
Her daughter called 911 and responders from Baton Rouge EMS and the St. George Fire Department began life-saving chest compressions and administered two shocks from a defibrillator.
“All I remember was a girl’s voice over me, telling me I was going to be OK,” Shields, 58, said Sunday while visiting the crew that rescued her — from the responding paramedics to the 911 operator who guided her family through the frantic July 6 experience.
For Shields and her family, the meeting was a chance to thank workers for their quick action. Rarely do EMS workers meet the patients they help, a rewarding experience, they say.
“I never get to see the good part of it,” said Tammy Cook, the 911 operator who took the family’s call and added they handled the scary situation well.
Shields’ daughter Holly Lafountain, 30, said it was almost an instinctual “fight or flight” response when she started CPR on her mom until medical crews arrived.
With wider availability of automated external defibrillators in offices, apartment buildings and other communal areas, some family members say more people should learn how to use them and administer CPR until medical crews arrive.
Those skills are especially useful because even chest compressions alone can buy valuable time for a person suffering from cardiac arrest until professionals arrive, said EMS spokesman Mike Chustz. Those skills are also vital for families with a history of heart disease and stroke.
About a decade ago, a doctor diagnosed Shields with a condition known as PVCs (Premature Ventricular Complexes), which means her heart functions at about 30% of what it should.
While remembering her emergency, Shields said she had been feeling fine up until the time she started to feel dizzy.
Emergency staff was surprised Shields didn’t have a blocked artery, which commonly triggers heart attacks. A bigger surprise was that she regained consciousness and was speaking almost immediately after paramedics delivered the second shock to her heart.
“I’ve never seen that before,” said paramedic Meghan McCutcheon, who has served with EMS the past six years.
Despite the lingering chest pain and a few fractured ribs from the chest compressions, Shields says she has been feeling better.
She was even feeling well enough to return to work last week. Still, the bookkeeper has to take certain things easy and be aware of her heart’s health.
“I still just need to take it easy,” Shields said. “No lifting, no reaching (and) I have to get my heart healthy.”