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What to do if someone you know needs CPR

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Patricia Gilliam is lucky -- and grateful -- her co-workers knew what to do when she needed CPR. Patricia Gilliam is lucky -- and grateful -- her co-workers knew what to do when she needed CPR.

By Lauren Lowrey - bio | email 

Posted by Kate Oatis - email

TOLEDO, OHIO (WTOL) - Accidents and medical emergencies happen all the time -- striking anyone, anywhere.

One Toledo woman was at work when it happened to her. But, she's alive today because her co-workers knew what to do.

So, the question is: If someone around you needed CPR, would you be able to help him or her?

Patricia Gilliam is grateful her co-worker can answer that question in the affirmative.

Her nightmare started the morning of April 6. "I woke up with a headache. That's the only thing I really remember about that day."

Gilliam got to work, unaware that her headache was actually a symptom of something serious.

"I'm not one to complain, so I didn't say 'I have a headache' but I went back to my office, and the next thing I knew it was 5 weeks later and I don't remember anything else," Gilliam said.

Within minutes of her arrival at work, co-workers found Gilliam on her office floor and sprang into action.

"I was grabbing a cup of coffee... down the hall, and I heard my secretary yelling. She came running down the hall to find me. She said Trish had fallen and she needed help," said Eastman and Smith attorney Gary Harden.

Harden found Gilliam barely conscious; her face was flushed and she wasn't breathing. Drawing on his 10 years of survival training, Harden began CPR and instructed a co-worker on how to help.

They performed CPR for 9 minutes until rescue crews arrived.

"I had that sickening feeling, thinking, 'Oh my gosh.' I don't know. I thought we'd lost her," Harden said.

Gilliam explains what had happened to her.

"I had two brain aneurysms and what they call 'broken heart syndrome.' It's where the heart panics, probably because of the aneurysms, and it stops beating."

Luckily for Gilliam, the compressions and rescue breaths allowed others to do for her body what it couldn't do for itself.

So if you were in this situation, would you know how to help your loved one, friend or co-worker?

The American Red Cross has some advice.

"The initial thing that we always teach in our classes is check, call and care," said Christina Springer with the Red Cross of Greater Toledo. "First you're going to check the person, then you're going to call 9-1-1, then you're going to care for the person."

Checking involves talking and finding out if the person can respond. If they're unconscious or not breathing, that's when the real work begins. If that's the case, you need to start CPR immediately.

The Red Cross of Greater Toledo trained 14,000 people in CPR last year alone.

Luckily for Gilliam, Harden had taught CPR to his Boy Scout Troop just the night before. He says it served as a "refresher" for him, and it ultimately saved Patricia.

"It's just an awesome situation to be in. I was sure we lost her, but we're just very, very fortunate. We thank God every day for her life," Harden said.

It's been seven months since that day, and Gilliam is still recovering. Through physical, occupational and speech therapies, she's re-learning the simple things we take for granted.

She says she's just really grateful.

"It's just absolutely wonderful to be alive," Gilliam said.

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