Orange County

Right place, right time: Carrboro woman becomes CPR hero

Peter “PJ” Morcombe recovers in UNC Hospitals after suffering cardiac arrest June 10 at the Berkshire Manor West apartments in Carrboro.
Peter “PJ” Morcombe recovers in UNC Hospitals after suffering cardiac arrest June 10 at the Berkshire Manor West apartments in Carrboro. courtesy of Peter H. Morcombe

Kim Pete was hanging out with friends last weekend when her newly acquired CPR skills were put to the test.

Peter “P.J.” Morcombe went into cardiac arrest around 11 p.m. June 10. Pete was walking back from the bathroom when she saw Morcombe had collapsed.

“I didn’t hear a heart beat,” she said. “His eyes weren’t responding; nothing was responding.”

Pete and her friends – including Morcombe – were playing Frisbee by the pool at the Berkshire Manor West apartments in Carrboro. When she came back from her apartment and saw Morcombe on the ground, she told friends to call 911 and began CPR.

She breathed into his mouth and gave chest compressions for about seven minutes until first responders arrived.

Peter Morcombe, P.J.’s father, said his 30-year-old son is recovering at UNC Hospitals.

Three police officers came to his home around midnight and told him his son was dead, Morcombe said. About a half hour later, he said, Lt. Joseph Thomas, of Carrboro Police Department, contacted him to say his son was alive.

He said he is grateful Pete was there to help save his son.

“I think she spent her last dollar on the CPR course,” Morcombe said.

Pete, a kayak instructor and guide at the Haw River, said she got certified a few months ago because she had a feeling it would be useful.

“It’s funny, you know, my boyfriend and I were broke,” she said. “I was like, I really need my certification. I just had a gut feeling, and I got it – thank God.”

Morcombe’s friends and family have been updating her on his condition.

“His doctors said that it was imperative that the CPR was done because he might not be here,” she said a friend told her.

The Central North Carolina Chapter of the American Red Cross offers classes in first aid, CPR and Automated External Defibrillator (AED) use. For information go to or call 919-489-6541

Pete said more people should learn CPR.

“It’s always good to have that certification,” she said. “I think that everyone should be taught this in school, to be honest, because, you know, look what just happened.”

Pete, who is from Connecticut, has known Morcombe since she moved to Carrboro about a year ago. She said he made her and her boyfriend feel welcome at the apartment complex, and they became fast friends.

“P.J. is one of the nicest, most personable, outstanding people that you would ever meet,” she said. “I’m glad he’s doing OK.”

Ana Irizarry: 317-213-3553

Heart association advice

The American Heart Association recommends that anyone who sees an adult collapse should call 911 and push hard and fast on the center of the chest, a technique known as Hands-Only CPR.

Updated resuscitation guidelines now recommend 100 to 120 compressions, or pushes, per minute, pressing down about 2 inches.

“People should not be afraid of pushing hard,” said Clifton Callaway, chair of the AHA’s Emergency Cardiovascular Care Committee. “Ribs bend with chest compressions and the ‘injury’ is usually very mild. It definitely is not life-threatening.”

Source: American Heart Association News