ENID, Okla. — A Jumbo Foods employee saved the life of a coworker who suffered a heart attack while on the job, performing CPR and communicating with 911 until help could arrive.

"He didn't have a pulse. Femoral, arterial or anything," Chrissy Bell said. "So I just worked on him for about six minutes until paramedics showed up."

Bell isn't sure how long her coworker had been unconscious before she began performing compressions, forcing his heart to pump blood. He had gone into the backroom at some point and was discovered, collapsed on the floor, by another coworker.

She rushed to the back and got to work, keeping him alive, while feeding vital information to an employee to relay on the phone with 911.

"I wanted to make sure they didn't come in blind," Bell said. "They need to know what they're walking into."

Bell spends most of her working hours behind the deli counter at Jumbo Foods on West Willow, but about 20 years prior, she was a nurse, she said.

"You can't really walk away from what you've learned or what you've been trained to do," she said.

Assistant manager Darren Ryan remembers the mid-July day well, the way everything outside of that backroom continued as normal, nobody knowing three grocery store employees were just out of sight saving a life.

"It was just business as usual everywhere else," he said.

Ryan kept the man's neck propped, per Bell's instruction.

"Until the ambulance guys got there, I was just doing whatever Chrissy told me," he said. "She was calm, and she was smart and her expertise was very much needed in that situation."

When paramedics arrived they tried to shock his heart back into action, Bell said. Three times they did it, and still, no response.

He was rushed off to the hospital, and for days nobody at the store knew what happened to him, if he had lived or died. Calls to the hospital were fruitless. They weren't family, so they couldn't get any info.

Finally, Bell tracked down a phone number for the man and called him directly. He answered.

"He was flat lining when he got to the hospital, but they were able to bring him back," Bell said. "They told him if it wasn't for somebody over here working on him, he would have died. He would have died before the paramedics even got here."

He hasn't come back to work yet, but did drop by the store for a visit, she said. She's hopeful he'll come back, at least part time.

Recovery can take some time, she knows. Just two weeks prior to the incident, she underwent surgery to treat a damaged tendon in her arm, she said, a treatment she now needs to repeat.

She'd been told not to straighten the arm, to avoid putting any pressure on it, she said. Hard advice to heed given the circumstances.

"I did what I needed to do, and it was just instinct," she said. "I didn't do it to get recognition, I did it to try and save somebody's life. I did and I'm glad I did."

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Willetts is education and city reporter for the Enid News & Eagle.
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