By Gina Mayfield
Their week-long cruise had returned to port the night before, and with the ship safely docked in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Mark and Diane Jones had slept in knowing that their disembarkation time was still hours away.
But just as the Joneses started to rouse, they heard a loud thump next door.
“Next thing I know, I hear a lady screaming at the top of her lungs in the hallway,” Diane recalls. “She was really, really screaming.”
Still in her nightgown, Diane ran out the door and found a small crowd gathered outside Andy and Michelle Katon’s room.
Inside, Andy had collapsed against the bathroom door. Mark, who had closely followed Diane, had to pull Andy away from the door and flip him over. That’s when Diane realized he was “extremely diaphoretic and cyanotic.” Those are the words an RN who spent a good part of her 38-year career in critical care uses to describe someone who is sweating profusely and turning blue.
“Get me an AED unit, call 911, get me some help here,” Diane said to the crowd while supporting Andy’s airway and constantly checking his pulse … until there wasn’t one.
She started Hands-Only CPR and waited for an AED unit. When it finally arrived, they shocked Andy once and his pulse returned to normal. He eventually started breathing on his own, and they transported him to a local hospital.
Then it was time for Diane and Mark to go downstairs – and have breakfast. When they met their friends, the conversation started with, “You guys aren’t going to believe what happened … .” What a morning it had been.
Turns out, Andy had a widow maker heart attack, which is almost always fatal without emergency care. “You’re only alive because of your next door neighbor’s actions,” the cardiologist told Andy.
Turns out this was the second time Diane used CPR to save a life outside of the hospital, the first time being at a college football game.
“I tell people, I don’t leave home without her,” Mark says with a laugh.
Since the rescue, the Joneses and Katons, who had never met before this incident, have gotten to know each other and planned on being together to mark the one-year anniversary of Andy’s survival in March 2020, then COVID-19 got in the way. Still, their bond is strong.
“It’s like we have a new family,” Mark says. “They’re very, very good people.”
“They call me their hero,” Diane says. “They always say they know Andy survived because of what I did. It was real rewarding to know that I saved his life. He was only 49 years old and had three children at home. They’ve all reached out to me to say, ‘Thank you for saving my dad.’ ”