ORANGE COUNTY, CA -- Some people are quick on their feet like Lauren Harrell, who was at the right place and the right time for the a local family.
Harrell, an occupational therapist at Mission Hospital, was able to administer CPR to Doc Proctor, 68, who had a massive heart attack while attending the Sept. 9 Tall Ships Festival in Dana Point with his family.
Through an earlier story on Patch about how the family wanted to thank the person who helped save his life, and a Google search, Harrell was able to connect with the family.
“On Sept. 13, I just happened to Google 'Tall Ships man heart attack' and saw the amazing story about Doc's survival. I am filled with joy, tears, goosebumps and more tears. I am so happy that Doc survived and I'm sorry I had to dash after performing CPR. I was somewhat double-parked, with my family waiting for me on the sidelines. I figured Doc was in good hands with the EMTs when I left,” she said.
Harrell said she will meet up with the family and meet Doc soon. He was recently released from the hospital, and is doing well, but tired according to his stepdaughter, Holly Telford.
Woman on a Mission
No stranger to acting fast, Harrell, said her own dad died of a massive heart attack in 1991. He was 41, she was 12.
She said he collapsed in the Genentech employee health center and the Genentech doctor may/may not have performed CPR ("jury's still out"), she said.
“My dad is one of the major reasons why I chose a job in health care and why I take CPR so seriously,” she said. “I have been taking CPR classes since I was 14; in the early days, to fulfill summer sports camp counselor requirements and more recently, to fulfill professional requirements to practice as an occupational therapist.”
On Sept. 8, Harrell, her husband and 4-year-old son had tickets to ride the Californian, one of the Tall Ships in the festival, on Sunday afternoon.
“I decided to drop them off at the Ocean Institute, instead of the shuttle bus from the Salt Creek lot," she recalled. "As I slowly made my way through traffic on Dana Point Harbor Drive, I saw a gentleman supine on the sidewalk and a woman tugging at his arm to get him upright. She was having no luck and I quickly noticed he was unconscious. I bolted out of my car and ran in front of a couple white SUVs to get to the gentleman.”
Harrell said his face was blue and that a few people were calling 911, but no one was giving CPR.
"I immediately went into an adrenaline-induced autopilot and started CPR. Everything around me was a blur, except for the tunnel vision I had with the CPR process and a few brief moments when I'd look up for some taste of reality...60 compressions...2 breaths....60 compressions...2 breaths," she said.
"During my first round of 60 compressions, I looked up at Doc's family to my right and could only see as high as his little blonde granddaughter," she continued. "She was precious, she looked scared, sad, confused, but full of hope that I could revive her grandfather...it was in that moment that I decided to perform mouth-to-mouth CPR instead of "hands only CPR."
After a couple cycles of CPR, a nurse came up and offered to help, but Harrell was running on pure adrenaline.
"At that point and told her I was an occupational therapist and to stand by in case I got tired," she said. "Another young gentleman arrived and stated he knew CPR; I delegated the task of looking and listening for breaths, and trying to get a pulse on Doc's neck."
A lifeguard arrived, but didn't have his equipment, so he sent someone to get his kit at his tower, she said.
"I set him on Doc's right wrist to try to get a pulse. Eventually, I noticed Doc's face was turning a pale pink-white and he started taking agonal gasps. I performed one more round of compressions once the EMTs arrived," Harrell said.
She said she left the scene because she knew Doc was in good hands and her family was double-parked in the street waiting for her.
"I wish I could have swooped back to check on Doc after I dropped my husband and older son at the Ocean Institute, but I couldn't find parking and I had my 1.5-year-old son in the car as well," she said. "I am filled with joy, tears, goosebumps and more tears with this news. I am so happy to have been part of the team that kept Doc alive and I would love to meet him and his family someday, when they are ready for a visit. Here's to a safe, steady and uneventful recovery period."
As for Doc of Rancho Santa Margarita, his stepdaughter Holly Telford of Aliso Viejo said: "He's very grateful to Ms. Harrell and he is looking forward to thanking her in person. I am contacting the city of Dana Point and Mission Hospital to get them to partner with us to get this amazing lady recognized for her gift of kindness."