By Gina Mayfield
On a crisp mid-September evening in Forest Lake, Minnesota, Kristina Thill was helping with the annual fall festival at the church where she grew up. After she finished her shift at the kids’ game booth and started chitchatting with a friend, she noticed an elderly church member stumbling out of the building.
“We were like … okay, well, that was kind of weird. He doesn’t really look like he’s doing too well. So we walked over to him and asked if he was okay, and he said thatsomething didn’t feel right. That’s when he collapsed,” Kristina says. She and her friend caught him as he fell to the ground and stopped breathing. They yelled for help and a police officer rushed over and began to administer CPR. At that point, Kristina handed her phone to a bystander and asked them to call 911.
“Because I work at the school and church, I knew where the AED machine was. So I ran and grabbed it,” Kristina says. “When I initially got back to the scene, the police officers stopped CPR to help with the AED. I kind of pushed them back and said, ‘Nope, I’ve been trained. Continue with CPR, and I’ll get him hooked up.’”
Luckily for everyone involved, Kristina had taken a couple of American Heart Association Heartsaver First Aid CPR AED classes from a local provider called Heart & Soul. Her most recent class was just three weeks prior to this event and the instructor, Cindi Gervais, knew to go over where to find the AED, even though some in attendance already knew where to find it.
“I hooked him up to the AED machine, and it said to administer a shock,” Kristina remembers. “We pushed the button and brought him back. He started coming around and talking.”
By that time the EMTs had arrived, assessed the situation and requested a helicopter to take the man to a major hospital. Kristina’s mom works for the church and does all of the hospital and home visits, so she was able to get in touch with the hospital to learn the man had survived. He bounced back quickly and continues to volunteer at the church and school.
The training Kristina received not only gave her the knowledge she needed to play an important part in the rescue, it gave her the confidence she needed to help save a life.