Woman drops dead, lives to tell about it

Feb. 10, 2013 @ 09:00 PM

It was March 2011 and 48-year-old Janet Walters was working in her office at the FedEx Global Education Center on the UNC campus when she dropped dead.
Walters, the mother of two boys, was in good health, and her family history indicated she would live a long life, just like her parents.
But there she was dead on the floor when a receptionist found her. The receptionist quickly called 911 and at the instruction of the dispatcher ran out in the hall and began screaming for help.
One of Walters’ co-workers came out of his office, rushed into her office and saw she was down. He immediately began CPR on Walters, doing it old school with chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth.
The 911 dispatcher told the receptionist he didn’t need to give mouth to mouth and to just concentrate on the chest compressions. The dispatcher relayed the beat to the receptionist, who counted it out as her co-worker “Mark” pumped Walters’ chest.
Walters’ face turned all kinds of colors, blue, purple, gray, and Mark was scared he wasn’t doing it right, that if somehow he was able to bring her back, she’d be brain damaged from lack of oxygen. But he kept going, and after five or 10 minutes, firefighters rushed into the office followed by paramedics.
They pulled out a portable defibrillator and shocked Walters’ heart. No change.
Again they shocked her. Still her heart did not start beating.
After a third and fourth shock her heart finally started beating again, and they quickly loaded her up in an ambulance and rushed her the few blocks to UNC Hospitals.
“If you’re going to die, it’s good to die in a glass cube that is two blocks from the hospital,” Walters said.
Yes, Walters survived.
At the hospital, they put Walters on ice to put her into hypothermic coma, which is often used after a cardiac arrest to protect the brain and other organs that may have been without oxygen.
Walters said she doesn’t remember any of it, and only heard what happened later when she recovered.
“The next thing I knew, two weeks later I was coming out of a coma,” Walters said.
While she was still at the hospital, her heart stopped beating again, so she had to have surgery to implant a pacemaker/defibrillator in her chest.
She survived, she said, because her co-worker knew CPR and began performing it on her as soon as he saw she was down.
“Every time I see a different doctor, they say, ‘Wow! You’re really lucky,’ ” Walters said.
Mark, the man who performed the CPR, doesn’t like the spotlight, according to Walters, and he did not respond to requests for an interview.
According to Walters, Mark was an Eagle Scout and learned CPR when he was a kid.
Since then some of Walters’ other co-workers as well as the parents of children in her son’s class have taken CPR courses.
Because she’s learned how valuable CPR can be, she arranged for other friends and acquaintances to take a CPR class at the South Orange Rescue Squad building on Roberson Street in Carrboro.
The South Orange Rescue Squad teaches CPR classes for free, said Jacques Morin, chairman of the board of directors of the squad.
“We can organize a class for a group or put an individual into a class,” he said.
The squad will go to a company’s or organization’s office to teach the class or people can come to the squad’s building for classes, he said.
The classes include how to give CPR, how to perform the Heimlich maneuver on others and on yourself and how to use a portable defibrillator.
Volunteers teach several levels of CPR, including classes for health care providers, classes for those that need to be certified and classes for family and friends.
One of the squad’s members is Alison Eaton, a teacher at Cedar Ridge High School in Hillsborough. When student Natalie Hough went into cardiac arrest in a bathroom in 2010, Eaton, along with other staff members at the school, performed CPR on Hough and saved her life.
For more information about taking CPR classes, go to: http://sors.us/community-programs/ or call the South Orange Rescue Squad at 919-967-1515.