Joan Kelley’s CPR skills were pressed into action last December at the Warsaw Walmart. 

Kelley, a family nurse practitioner at Bothwell Health Center Truman Lake, went to the Walmart Pharmacy during her lunch break to pick up a prescription. While she was waiting in line, she heard someone yelling her name. It was a clinic patient whose friend was having a medical issue. 

“I heard someone yelling ‘Joan, Joan, come now, quick, help’,” Kelley said. “It was right before the holiday and the store was full of shoppers. I left my spot in the pharmacy line and found them near the front of the store.”

Kelley said there were three or four other people already with the woman, including Walmart employees, the store manager and a registered nurse. While dazed, the woman was breathing, and Kelley was able to get some of the woman’s medical history from the friend. Suddenly, the woman started having seizures, and then she stopped breathing and they could not find a pulse. Kelley and the nurse started CPR. 

“I started doing chest compressions, and the nurse was checking for a pulse,” she said. “We were just following community CPR guidelines — hard and fast compressions and checking the woman’s carotid artery.” 

The store did not have an automated external defibrillator (AED), a portable device that can diagnose and treat life-threatening cardiac events, so Kelley and the nurse continued compressions until the police and an ambulance arrived and took the woman to the hospital.

“I had no stethoscope, no instruments, no bag, no AED,” she said. “In those situations, you just work with what you have. I really lucked out and had a nurse there who knew CPR.”

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), more than 350,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests occur annually in the United States. Of that group, about 46% receive CPR from a bystander. The AHA does not recommend a minimum age for learning CPR and says the ability to perform CPR is based more on body strength than age. Studies have shown that children as young as 9 years old can learn and retain CPR skills.

“Everybody should know CPR,” Kelley said. “People don’t understand how important it is and how easy it is to learn. Events like what I experienced happen all the time, whether it’s in a Walmart, in someone’s home, or somewhere else. Medical personnel can’t always arrive right away.” 

This event isn’t the first time Kelley has performed CPR on someone outside of a medical facility. 

“I have performed CPR on my father, my mother-in-law, and my father-in-law, all while we were out in the community,” she said. “You never know when, where or who will need the skill. Even if someone took the class a long time ago, some CPR is better than no CPR.”

Bothwell Regional Health Center offers a one-day community CPR/AED course that teaches participants how to provide CPR to an adult, child or infant and how to use an AED for adults and children. Classes are from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. March 7, May 9, Sept. 12, or Nov. 7. Cost is $35 and preregistration is required. For more information and to register, visit brhc.org/classes. 

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