When Missy Wenzl went to her 30th high school class reunion this past weekend, she thought she'd be visiting with classmates and catching up with old friends. She didn't anticipate being called upon to save a life.
By responding quickly and administering CPR, Wenzl and another classmate were able to save a woman whose heart had stopped beating at the reunion.
Wenzl, an employee at Newton Medical Center, said she doesn't see herself as a hero. She's just glad she was able to use her training to help someone in need, and she also wants to encourage members of the public to seek CPR training.
"She would not have survived if there wasn't someone there to do CPR," Wenzl said of the woman at the reunion. "... Get certified (in CPR). It can save somebody's life. It's an incredible feeling to know you've helped someone have another day."
Dick Gehring, battalion chief with Newton Fire/EMS, echoes Wenzl's advice.
"You never know when it's going to be your loved one that's going to need resuscitation," he said.
Wenzl works as a medical technologist in the lab at Newton Medical Center. NMC requires employees to be CPR certified, and Wenzl had actually just finished her CPR certification in June.
The woman who had the medical emergency at the reunion was 48 years old, and Wenzl said she had not seen her since their graduation. The woman was talking with a group of classmates when she sat down and unexpectedly had a seizure. She stopped breathing and had no pulse.
The event caught everyone at the reunion off guard.
"This was a party," Wenzl said. "She was nobody who would classically have heart issues. She isn't that person — it just happened."
Wenzl and another classmate almost immediately began chest compressions and breathing treatment. It was later discovered the woman had 80 percent blockage of the coronary artery. She's now out of the hospital, but Wenzl said this story could just as easily have had a different ending.
"CPR is not difficult to learn," she said. "It's not a difficult process. It's very basic. But it makes a big difference whether we're planning a funeral for our classmate or for her flying home."
Gehring said he has seen "good samaritans" save lives with CPR before, similar to Wenzl. When Newton EMS arrives on scene during an emergency, sometimes a police officer has already begun CPR, or a family member or even a stranger passing by.
He said the sooner CPR is started in an emergency, the more likely the victim is to survive. It's also important to take regular classes in CPR to keep your skills fresh.
Wenzl recommended Lifesaver Learning of Wichita for CPR classes, by calling 683-2645. Gehring also recommended calling the Hutchinson Community College branch in Newton about CPR classes, at 283-7000.