Mary Robinson has little memory of the day last spring when her heart simply stopped for more than 46 minutes.
But the 64-year-old Old Fort woman had a heart full of gratitude Monday, thankful for her husband, firefighters, paramedics, nurses and doctors who saved her life.
Robinson was the guest of honor at the first cardiac arrest survivor’s luncheon at Mission Hospital. The odds of surviving a cardiac arrest is only about 5 percent, so not many emergency or medical workers get the chance to celebrate with a survivor, said Frank Castelblanco, Mission’s director of cardiac emergencies.
“According to the odds, Mary really shouldn’t be here,” Castelblanco said.
Her husband, Lloyd, recalls Mary was in the kitchen, cooking their supper, while he was watching TV. She staggered into the room, sat down then “just went back,” Lloyd Robinson recalled. “I knew something was wrong.”
He then did something that saved his wife’s life, Castelblanco said. He dialed 911.
“That’s the most important thing, the first thing I would urge people to do if they see someone collapse,” Castelblanco said.
The dispatcher gave him instructions on how to perform CPR, and he started compressing his wife’s chest. Their dog, Abigail, was biting at his hand, but Lloyd Robinson kept up the rhythm until the first responders arrived within about five minutes.
Trading off, firefighters and then paramedics continued to perform CPR for 46 minutes, then applied a defibrillator until they had Mary’s heart beating again.
Gary Robinson, the couple’s son, was so impressed by his father’s action that he took classes and became certified in CPR. “I didn’t want to have to learn it on the fly like he did.”
The paramedics also started cooling her body to protect her brain from damage, inducing therapeutic hypothermia, according to William Kehler, director of McDowell County Emergency Medical Services.
After almost three weeks in Intensive Care and surgery for a defibrillator to keep her heart in rhythm, Mary Robinson was glad to be sharing sandwiches with her family and the people who saved her life. “I am so thankful to all the paramedics and the people at the hospital who didn’t give up on me,” she said.