I had established myself as a Paramedic, but been injured 3 times and lost my ability to lift and carry, ending that part of my career in medicine. This day was sunny too, and my little brother and I had slept in, as well as my mom. Jeffry and I were sitting on the deck drinking coffee when it hit us that it was after 10 and mom never sleeps that late; and then immediately we started to panic that we had better check on her. I went in to check and he went to the basement bathroom. When I walked in her back was towards me, but instantly I could tell that she was not okay, and that’s when my switch flipped and I had to no longer be Jessica at home, and I had to be Paramedic Jessica. I got around the bed to my mom who was agonal breathing at about 6 times per minute, and she was literally covered in white, frothy sputum. Flash pulmonary edema, I knew exactly what it was, and that she was in bad shape. I needed help, and now. Down the stairs I went to find little J, and get his help, and I managed to find my phone, call 9-1-1, and get back into the bedroom to provide care with my sheers. I rolled her over, manually cleared her airway, scissor stripped her, and told J to send in the help when they got there, and go find my jump-bag- that I had to remember exactly its location to send him. An officer came in and we moved her from the bed to the floor and started compressions- because as soon as we laid her flat, she coded.
There I was, in my house with my little brother, counting my compressions and focusing on the depth trying to resuscitate my own mother. EMS got there, and just like when I was walking into people’s homes to help them, a feeling of relief came over me, for a second. I knew at that moment that I was a little overwhelmed and I needed to get out of the way and let them do it, but I was going to stay right there, you know, in case they needed some pointers. Onto the monitor she went and down the tube went. Asystole- every medics fear when they start an arrest. These people in my home were the epitome of what I hope I looked like every time I walked into someone’s house. Out the door she went, the cop needed some info, and before they could load her I remembered to yell out to them “she has metal clips in her brain, please don’t let them suck them off before I can get there!!!” Questions were answered, phone calls were made, my family was on their way and so were we. She was still alive when the rig left, and when I walked in to GHP, of course through the EMS doors because who has time for the front desk when I need to see my mom.
When they brought me up her room, of course the curtain was closed, but I immediately knew one thing that they weren’t doing CPR still, so she was still alive. I only got a peak of course before I was whisked away to the “Family Lounge” to wait for the staff. In the split second of seeing her in there on the vent I got a ray of hope, the nurse that was in there working tirelessly to support my mother post-cardiac arrest was a good friend and gentle soul, and I knew then that she was at least safe for the moment. More phone calls to make, and our family was coming then. It wasn’t until we were in ICU that it really dawned on me, talking with the Physician handling my mother’s care that I even really realized what had happened that afternoon.
My mother had gone into severe respiratory distress in her sleep and had ultimately been drowning in her secretions. She didn’t have very many more minutes to sustain like that before it was too late, but my ability to go through the motions and provide adequate basic chest compressions and some airway opening movements, saved her life that day. She was treated for pneumonia for about 10 days and discharged, to then be treated outpatient for another 6 months or so to fully resolve it. But she is healthy today, back in her classes in Grad school and still hanging out on the Dean’s List. High quality CPR, without interruption saved her life, and left her with no lasting deficits.