This blog is authored by Hayley Meyer, a nursing assistant at the Medical University of South Carolina. Below is her story of how she and her family saved her mom, Pauline, during the scariest night of their lives.   

It was the night of November 15, 2016, nine days before Thanksgiving—a time when families gather to celebrate their blessings.

I was asleep when my dad burst into my room at 3:00 AM. He was panicked, and the tone of his voice has such an urgency that I immediately awoke.

Dad was yelling something about mom and to call 9-1-1. My heart started pounding. My hands shook. I wanted to know what was going on, so I followed dad back to my parents’ bedroom.

As I walked into their room, dad was next to mom performing CPR. Her body was blue and stiff. Suddenly, I felt like I wasn’t even there. It was like I was looking from the outside, and it wasn’t real. The voice on the phone was asking, “What is your emergency?” I couldn’t talk.

I handed the phone to my dad… and then instinct took over.

As my father spoke to 9-1-1, my body went on autopilot. I began performing Hands-Only CPR, to which I was first introduced during a high school emergency responder class. Throughout college, I maintained my training as part of my sports medicine studies. I never thought I’d actually need to use CPR.

Altogether, mom received a full 10 minutes of CPR before first responders arrived to take over. At the hospital, she was placed in an induced coma. My family clung to hope.

Five days later, my dad answered his phone to the most beautiful words he’d ever heard. A nurse had held up her phone so my mom could speak: “Honey, are you on your way?” I could barely understand my dad as he called me running through the hospital, shouting, “Mom’s awake!” I’ve never been so happy. Mom came home to us after nine days in the hospital on November 23rd—the day before Thanksgiving.

We still don’t know the exact cause of my mom’s cardiac arrest. Her only symptom was that she sat up in bed coughing, which is what had woken my dad at that hour. To this day I’m still in disbelief that it all happened as it did.

Since the incident, my family has been dedicated to spreading the word of CPR. We’ve worked with the American Heart Association to promote our local Heart Walk, and my mom has become a member of the Association’s Early Cardiovascular Care Committee.

My final message to everyone is this:

Don’t think you don’t need the training because you doubt you could save someone’s life. I never thought I would actually ever use CPR, and then I used it to save my own mom. It’s incredible that the impetus to save her life started with a one-day class I took when I was 17.

Learn CPR: not just one member of the family but every member. It’s that important.