As a nutrition services employee for the Colonial School District, 33-year-old Sarah Stephenson is typically trying to improve lives through better nutritional habits--but on Saturday, her knowledge of CPR is what helped save a life.
The Newark native was attending a conference hosting 800 nutritional workers from around the state at the Chase Center on the Riverfront on March 24, 2018, when a nearby woman suddenly had a seizure in her chair.
“She was kind of just sitting there with her head back, so nothing really looked out of the norm,” said Stephenson. “You always want to check out things first before going over to a situation because you never really know what could be happening next, and the safety of you and others around you is still important.”
Once she had assessed the situation, Stephenson had, Red Clay employees, Ranee Patterson and Natalie Hawker, assisted her with placing the women on the ground and began CPR. She said once she was in the moment, instinct took over, and she let muscle memory guide her.
“I just did [it], and the next thing I know, I’m counting one, two, three, four, up to thirty, and then two breaths, and we did it again. Finally, until the paramedics arrived.”
Stephenson said it was the longest and shortest six minutes of her life.
“[The women] had no pulse,” said Stephenson. “We also had someone counting how long she had been unresponsive because [the women] was not responding at all.”
During these crucial moments, the Chase Center room was evacuated, allowing space for Stephenson and others to perform the necessary actions to keep the victim stable until paramedics could arrive.
Once paramedics arrived, Stephenson said a complete wave of shock took over.
“There were people upset, and there were [people] praying in the corner,” said Stephenson.
Prior to this incident, she said she'd never had to give someone CPR, and it was thanks to being a lifeguard for the past 15 years that saving this women’s life was even possible. Stephenson believed CPR is a skill that many people never take the time to learn, and yet is a very important skill to know.
“If something were to happen, 'Oh, wow, I know this, I can help this person,'” said Stephenson. “I mean it’s not a difficult task, but you do need to know what you are doing.”
The victim remained at St. Francis Hospital in stable condition, and was recovering.