FARGO— Sloan Stoltz of south Fargo knew something was wrong when her mother collapsed at home in front of her and the family's 4-year-old twin boys on Thanksgiving weekend.
So the 8-year-old quickly FaceTimed her aunt, Jenna Lee, in Grand Forks, who told the girl to get help at neighbor Mark Donarski's house in the tight-knit Farmstead Court neighborhood in south Fargo.
Lee's husband, Jason, a law enforcement officer, meanwhile, called 911 while Donarski knew something was seriously wrong when a barefooted Sloan knocked on the door looking distraught and trembling.
He rushed over with Sloan to find 35-year-old Kadie Stoltz lying face down. A former Marine, he had been trained in CPR but that was a long time ago.
"I was in shock just seeing her lying there," Donarski said. No matter, he started performing CPR until the F-M Ambulance Service crew, firefighters and police arrived within minutes.
"They are the real heroes, they are the ones who really saved her life," Donarski said. They quickly took over care and rushed her to the hospital.
The fit and seemingly healthy mother of three had suffered a massive heart attack that led to sudden cardiac arrest.
It was a totally unexpected, said her husband, Tyler, who was gone at his job as a oil rig driller in western North Dakota. He said his wife had been working out three times a week and going for runs. In October, she had just ran in her first half-marathon.
So it was one proud mom and dad who watched Sloan and Donarski receive a Citizen Lifesaving Award or more simply called a "Hero Award" with a plaque and medal from the ambulance service, Fargo police and fire departments and the Red River Regional Dispatch Center in a ceremony on Wednesday, Dec. 12. Sloan also got a teddy bear.
Sloan said after the ceremony that she was "scared" when she saw her mom collapse and that she really doesn't like thinking about it because it brings her back to the Nov. 25 incident.
She said she thought first about FaceTiming her aunt on her mom's cellphone because her mom was such "close friends" with Lee.
But she really didn't know what to do or where to go at first, she said.
Kadie said she can't believe how her 8-year-old stayed so calm and did all the right things.
Tyler also said his daughter, who started the life-saving rescue by recognizing the seriousness of the situation, is "something special"
"We are so lucky to have her. She is terribly intelligent and in tune to how people feel. We are so proud of her," he said.
Donarski agreed that Sloan was one "amazing" child. She said the girl is always so happy and friendly and that she often brings artwork or baked goods over to the Donarskis. His wife suffers from ALS so they are often at home.
Tyler said the chain of events also involved some luck, with the aunt answering her phone and the neighbors being at home.
Now, though, just 17 days after the heart attack, the lucky mom is doing well.
After being discharged last Saturday, she said she was doing fine and will be doing some therapy sessions.
She did have one setback after the attack and had to go back into the hospital with an ulcer, as her medicines had caused some internal bleeding.
"But she's on the mend and everything is looking up," Tyler said.
The problem with her heart was that she had an arterial tear which led to a blood clot, said Tyler. So doctors had to put a stent on the backside of her heart where the tear was found.
"It was completely unforeseeable," Tyler said about the near-death medical emergency. "It's crazy. I guess you just never know."
And what the family, ambulance workers, police and firefighters want people to know is the importance of learning CPR.
"It's so simple to learn," Tyler said.
Kristi Engelstad of F-M Ambulance agrees. "Hands-only CPR is easy to learn, easy to do and can save a life. This is also a great reminder to talk to your children about emergencies and what to do if an emergency happens at home."
Instructions for CPR
F-M Ambulance Service outreach worker Kristi Engelstad said instructions are pretty simple. Call 911 and then start pushing in the middle of the chest at a fast pace. That pace is often compared to the beat of the song "Stayin' Alive."
She said there is training offered, but through the American Heart Association and the Otto Bremer Foundation, the ambulance service recently received 600 Hands-Only CPR Kits that are available to anyone in the area. The free kits include a short video about CPR and a blowup dummy to practice on. The only catch is that they ask that at least five people also watch the video and practice on the dummy.
Engelstad said hands-only is the method mostly favored because some people don't like the idea of putting their mouth over another person's in another step that can be used in CPR.
The kits are available by calling 701-364-1759 to schedule a time to pick up the kits at the F-M Ambulance Service at 2215 18th St. S. in Fargo.
Although there's the simplicity of CPR, the American Red Cross acknowledges that even after training, it's hard to remember the steps. They suggest placing these instructions on a refrigerator, in your car or bag or even at your desk at work.
1. First check the scene and the person. Make sure the scene is safe, then tap the person on the shoulder and shout "Are you OK?" to ensure that the person needs help.
2. If it's evident that the person needs help, call or ask a bystander to phone 911, then send someone to get an an automated external defibrillator. If one isn't available, or a there is no bystander to access it, stay with the victim, call 911 and begin administering assistance.
3. Open the airway. With the person lying on his or her back, tilt the head back slightly to lift the chin.
4. Listen carefully, for no more than 10 seconds, for sounds of breathing. Occasional gasping sounds do not equate to breathing. If there is no breathing, begin CPR.
5. When doing CPR, push hard, push fast. Place your hands, one on top of the other, in the middle of the chest. Use your body weight to help you administer compressions that are at least 2 inches deep and delivered at a rate of at least 100 compressions per minute.
6. Deliver rescue breaths. With the person's head tilted back slightly and the chin lifted, pinch the nose shut and place your mouth over the person's mouth to make a complete seal. Blow into the person's mouth to make the chest rise. Deliver two rescue breaths, then continue compressions. If the chest does not rise with the initial rescue breath, re-tilt the head before delivering the second breath. If the chest doesn't rise with the second breath, the person may be choking. After each subsequent set of 30 chest compressions, and before attempting breaths, look for an object and, if seen, remove it.
7. Continue CPR steps. Keep performing cycles of chest compressions and breathing until the person exhibits signs of life, such as breathing, a defibrillator becomes available, or a trained medical responder arrives on scene.
(Source: American Red Cross)