I-Team Investigation: In the Nick of Time

PERRYSBURG (13abc Action News) - A Perrysburg school cafeteria worker is lucky to be alive after suffering a cardiac arrest at school recently.

She’s alive all thanks to the quick work of co-workers inside Ft. Meigs Elementary. It's a life-saving lesson anyone can learn, one you might need at any moment.

It started off as a normal day at Fort Meigs. Cafeteria manager Mary Jo Ireland remembers at least part of the day well. Her co-workers had to fill her in on the rest.

For Ireland, Monday through Friday brings a steady stream of hungry kindergartners through 4th graders. All going through the line, grabbing their food and heading to their table. But October 11th was a very different day.

"Don't remember the whole day. I remember absolutely nothing,” said Ireland. "I was working on the line serving kids and I told them I needed to sit down and then I was on the floor."

Ireland was on the floor, losing life and quickly. She was going into cardiac arrest, her heart shutting down.

"She was a very beat red almost a purpleish color. She quickly flushed that out and became gray looking and was just lifeless," said Kellie Johnson, the Ft. Meigs Elementary principal.

Principal Johnson came to help. So did off duty nurse Kerryanne Hite.

"Just enjoying the lunch period and i noticed some commotion coming from the kitchen and I asked the lunch lady is everything OK? And that's when she said no?" said Hite.

"Someone came in and said I need you guys to call 911. She looked at me and said I need you in the kitchen. I had no idea what I was getting into," said school nurse Alli Wilkinson who also administered CPR.

All of them reacted, they started CPR which included chest compressions and mouth to mouth.

"It was just like someone just kept pushing and pushing and I could feel them pushing it into me and I could hear them talking and talking and it was just pressure, push, push, push," said Ireland.

"I was petrified that she was going to die right there on the grounds of the cafeteria. It was really scary," said Johnson.

Johnson then got the automated external defibrillator or AED. It’s something she was actually trained on.

"You attend one of those trainings thinking it's good to have this knowledge in the back of your head but when am I ever going to really need to use this," said Johnson.

"The doctor said if it wasn't for them knowing how to use the AED and knowing how to do CPR I wouldn't be here," said Ireland.

EMS arrived shortly after. She spend several days in a coma but she survived.

CPR has changed over the years. Experts now recommend what's called "hands only" CPR.

"With bystander CPR, when performed as soon as possible, it can double or triple the survival rate for that victim," said Brianne Ballard with the American Heart Association.

The American Heart Association also encourages people to perform chest compressions to the popular 70's song "Staying Alive".

"It's just less fearful. You're not putting your mouth on someone else's mouth. There is still that fear of acting," said Ballard.

Acting can help. Most cardiac arrests happen outside a hospital. Of those incidents only about 10% of people survive. Good Samaritan laws in Michigan and Ohio protect people if they perform CPR or use an AED. In fact an AED won't shock anyone if they don't need it.

Ireland, 62, did need it and she's grateful people came to her aid.

"I don't remember anything and i think that scares me the most," said Ireland.

She doesn't know and may never know what caused the cardiac arrest but she does know what it took and who it took to save her life.

"I can't thank them enough for saving my life," said Ireland. “If it wasn't for them, I wouldn't be here. I am so grateful to them."