Margie Hager always believed in angels, but the two burly men who saved her life look nothing like the delicate, winged creatures that grace windows and cabinets of her Wilkes-Barre home.
Margie Hager the Survivor
“I honestly believe in angels, I have a living room full of them, and a kitchen window, and God gave me two living angels,” she said.
Although Hager, 64, remembers nothing about the massive heart attack that suddenly struck her down in the parking lot of Price Chopper, Wilkes-Barre Township, on Feb. 27, she knows she is alive because of the impromptu CPR delivered by passersby Mike Romanowski and Paul Gallagher.
“It was actually a blood clot in an artery and when Mike did the first compression, I guess he actually shot it out so it didn’t explode. (The doctors) said I was actually dead.” Hager said. “I keep telling my husband that I still can’t believe I died and I’m still here.”
Romanowski, of Swoyersville, was the first to deliver CPR. On the way home from the gym, his wife asked him to pick up orange juice at Sam’s Club. Wanting Swiss cheese for a sandwich, and not wanting several pounds of it from the bulk-foods store, he stopped at Price Chopper.
“As soon as I pulled into the lot, I saw her on the ground. I parked my vehicle and I started rushing over to her. When I asked, ‘Are you OK?’ I could tell she wasn’t,” he said.
Romanowski pulled out his cell phone, called 911 to get an ambulance on the way, and with his free hand did two hard compressions on her chest.
“When she called me, I was just overwhelmed by the call. She said her doctors said the first couple compressions, that’s what saved her life,” he said. “Just that initial jolt of doing a compression brought it back.”
Gallagher, a vendor with Kellog’s Snacks, walked out of the store after stocking the shelves and saw Romanowski on the phone. He immediately dropped to his knees and took over compressions.
“I really saw that no one else was doing anything. Mike was on the phone, which was the right thing to do,” Gallagher, of Dallas, said. “I did chest compressions for about 90 seconds when she took a few ragged breaths. Someone behind me said once she starts breathing you have to stop CPR. I did, and she stopped breathing.”
He immediately resumed CPR and kept going until the ambulance arrived and a medic knelt to the ground and placed his hands where Gallagher’s were. With zero formal CRP training, Gallagher guesses he must have learned how to administer it through a public service announcement or a TV show. A retired foreman, Romanowski had been trained, but only ever performed chest pumps on a dummy.
Hager was whisked to Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center in Plains Township, where she remained until Wednesday recovering. Until she woke up hours later, she did not know what happened.
Trying to be lighthearted about what could have been fatal, she joked it was a good thing her “angels” weren’t wimps.
“(The doctors) told me I’m very lucky I don’t know what they did to me. I guess between the CPR and the paddles, it was brutal,” she said.
Through Wilkes-Barre Township police, Hager found Romanowski, who had given his name and number to police, and Gallagher, who drove to the hospital after the rescue to check on Hager and had left his information with medics.
Gallagher saved the message he received from Hager on Wednesday, when she told him, “You’re my angel and you saved my life.”
The three gathered Saturday at Hager’s home for the first time since the nearly tragic heart attack. She gave them each a Willow Tree angel figurine and a card, and made them promise to come to a party once it gets warm outside.
“These two men, and I honestly believe God sent them there, and I owe them everything,” she said. “And I have four children, seven grandchildren and they all feel the same way.”