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Laura Geraghty, Massachusettes

 

For Laura, April 1, 2009, started out just as any other day. It was sunny but cool, she remembers. The mother of two, and a grandmother, was at her job, driving a school bus for the Newton Public School. Her passengers, special-needs children, were wheelchair-bound. Seemingly in good health and in good spirits, Laura was finishing up her late-morning run, transporting a student and teacher back to school, when she realized she was in trouble. As she was pulling into the school parking lot, she began having sharp stomach pains. She was able to park her bus, but she kept feeling worse. The pain "went right up my arm and into my chest, and I said, 'Uh-oh, I'm having a heart attack,' " she said. The teacher ran from the bus to get help. The school nurse, Gail, and CPR instructor Michelle arrived moments later with the school's new automated external defibrillator. Laura, barely conscious, was fading fast. She was weak and having trouble breathing. And then she went into full cardiac arrest. Gail and Michelle performed CPR while they waited for paramedics. Laura was down for 57 minutes. No blood pressure, no pulse, no oxygen, no blood flow. She was shocked 21 times before she finally came back. Just before to the 21st time, she remembers hearing the doctor say, "This is the last shock. After this, I'm going to call it." And then she had a heartbeat. She was placed in a medically induced coma for four days and her children were warned that brain damage might have occurred. Laura not only survived, but also defied expectations and walked out of the hospital nine days later. It was a blood clot in Laura's heart that caused her cardiac arrest. She had never shown any symptoms before that. "I'm very blessed," Laura said. "Since then, I've seen my son graduate from high school, went to my daughter's wedding, celebrated my 46th birthday and met my second granddaughter, "I am living proof you can go over 43 minutes without a heartbeat and live. Now it's become my mission to encourage everyone to learn CPR. That's what saved my life." Less than a year later after doctors saved Laura's life she got a chance to repay the debt. In early February, Laura was shopping at a local Wal-Mart when she saw a stranger collapse of an apparent heart attack. Due to her own health history, Laura carried a pocket CPR device that she promptly used to administer chest compressions to the man until he resumed breathing and his pulse came back. "I watched his stomach go up and down, and it was like, 'Wow!'," And to stress the value of learning from experience, Laura added that a year ago "I wouldn't have known what I know now, and I may have probably not gotten involved."

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