By Mike Wade
Community Relations Specialist
New River Valley Community Services
This is a year that many in our area will likely remember for the devastating April tornadoes, or the unsettling tremors felt from the recent earthquake.
But for a handful of staff at Fairview Home in Dublin, those events might actually be overshadowed by what took place on the evening of Friday, Aug. 12.
For those who believe in miracles, this was pretty darn close.
Meaza Yerdaw, an LPN at Fairview, was making her evening rounds when she noticed William, a resident at the facility, beginning to slump against a hallway corner. Yerdaw immediately rushed to William’s aid, supporting him in time to prevent his head from hitting the tile/concrete floor, and calling out for help.
Within seconds, a group of co-workers were by Yerdaw’s side. Some initially suspected a seizure, but it quickly became evident that William’s situation was far worse. He was having a major heart attack.
“I just remember saying, ‘Kristy, this is bad. He’s not breathing,’” recalled Teresa Quesenberry, also an LPN.
Quesenberry and the other staff immediately began performing CPR on William while Kristy McMahan, Fairview’s administrator, rushed off to prepare the necessary paperwork for the emergency crew that was en route.
As she entered the medical office to retrieve William’s file, McMahan’s eyes zeroed in on Fairview’s AED (Automated External Defibrillator) unit – a piece of medical equipment that can be utilized when someone is experiencing a life-threatening cardiac episode.
“We had never actually used it (AED) here,” McMahan said, “but I looked up and it was just there – almost like it had a glow around it.”
According to the time meter on the security video – which captured the entire incident – staff began CPR three minutes after William was first spotted by Yerdaw. They started working with the AED unit at the four-minute mark.
Although the response was undeniably quick, staff knew they were clearly in a race against time.
“I was afraid we were going to lose him,” explained Lea Porter, medication aide. “His skin was starting to change color and I could see the life being sucked out of him – you could see it in his eyes – and that was the hardest part for all of us.”
LPN Holly Hughes, who at the time had been on the staff at Fairview for only one week, is also an EMT (Emergency Medical Technician). Her co-workers are quick to point out that Hughes’ experience and knowledge of the AED unit provided much-needed reassurance.
Fairview staff worked with William until the rescue crew arrived, 19 minutes after the 911 call was made. Since the responding crew initially consisted of only one paramedic, the Fairview team continued to assist with the situation.
Their efforts paid off. William had been revived and once again had a heartbeat. The second paramedic arrived and William was quickly loaded into the ambulance and transported to the local hospital so he could be flown to Roanoke.
“I knew he had a heartbeat when we sent him out, but I honestly didn’t expect him to live,” McMahan declared. “He had just had a heart attack about a year ago. So, I just thought he was going to die.”
Porter was more confident about William’s prognosis.
“I just knew he was going to be alright,” said Porter. “Teresa (Quesenberry) wanted to see that man live so bad … It was amazing to watch her perform CPR, yet she’s so humble about what she did. I know this, if anything happens to me, I want her to be there!”
“It was a group effort,” Quesenberry added. “Everyone around me did exactly what they were supposed to do. You have to remain calm in those situations and that’s just what we did.
“And, if this should ever happen again, we’ll know exactly what to do – with no hesitation,” Quesenberry declared.
Amy Lynch, a mental health community support professional at Fairview, had just arrived at the facility as her co-workers were attempting to save William’s life. Realizing that emotions for everyone were running high, Lynch stepped in to help other residents remain calm.
“There were a couple of ladies who were hysterical and I had to be sure to keep them out of the way,” Lynch explained, “but for the most part, everyone did a wonderful job of pitching in and helping – even the residents did really well in reacting to what was going on.”
Lynch is also quick to praise her fellow staff for their life-saving efforts.
“I’ve worked in other places and have seen people in this position before, but I’ve never seen someone come out of it looking as good as William,” continued Lynch. “His skin was pink by the time they put him on the stretcher. I mean, he looked good.”
According to the general manager for safety products at Cintas (the company that supplies the AED unit at Fairview), this incident marks the first successful use and “save” with one of his company’s AED units in the western region of Virginia.
Amazingly, the staff involved with this heroic, life-saving effort went right back to their regular tasks as soon as the ambulance drove off. After all, there were dozens of other residents they needed to care for.
“The whole situation was just freaky wonderful,” stated McMahan. “It was quiet and calm at the time, despite the chaos, and it’s an experience that really connected those of us who were involved.”
“It lets you know the level of passion in the people that you’re working with,” Porter remarked. “They obviously care about the residents who live here and it shows.”
“If I had a family member living here and I wasn’t close by, I know I would rest easy because the residents here are obviously in the best of hands,” Lynch added. “The response to William’s medical emergency was textbook perfect. It really was.”
The latest reports on William all indicate that he is doing remarkably well. He was recently released from the hospital and is now spending time at a local rehabilitation facility.
But, McMahan noted that William is already telling his visitors that he’s definitely planning to return to Fairview.
“He wants to come home,” she concluded.
Fairview Home is an assisted living facility that serves the region’s indigent population. Owned by several local government entities, Fairview is managed and staffed by New River Valley Community Services. The facility currently has 66 beds.
Individuals interested in making a donation to Fairview Home may send monetary contributions to: Fairview Home, Inc., Attention: Kristy McMahan, P.O. Box 1105, Dublin, VA 24084.