Wednesday, April 21, 2021
Dee Holcomb, 70, of Norman, may not be alive and well today if it weren’t for the help of University of Oklahoma student Caroline Keogh, EMSSTAT, and the Norman Regional HealthPlex.
Holcomb went into cardiac arrest while backing out of her driveway and hit a mailbox on March 29. That mailbox helped save her life because it happened to be at the house across the street where Keogh was babysitting.
Keogh was sitting in the kitchen doing a craft when she heard a loud noise outside. She looked out the window and saw a car had backed into the mailbox. At first, she couldn’t tell anyone was in the car, but then she saw a man run outside and open the door to try to pick up the woman in the driver’s seat. That’s when she realized something was wrong and called 911.
The 911 operator instructed Keogh to get the woman, whom she later found out was Holcomb, out of the car and lay her on the ground. She said it was too difficult for her to get Holcomb out of the car on her own, but fortunately there were some painters outside two doors down so she flagged them down for help.
The man who ran outside, Holcomb’s husband Richard, tried to begin chest compressions, but Keogh stepped in letting him know she was CPR certified and could take over.
“She was lifeless until [Keogh] got a gasp of air. That was the first sign of life,” Richard said. “She’s an angel.”
Keogh performed Hands-Only CPR on Holcomb for about 60 seconds before the EMSSTAT paramedics arrived and quickly took over and got Holcomb to Norman Regional HealthPlex, which has an accredited Chest Pain Center. The Norman Regional HealthPlex Emergency Department was ready and waiting for Holcomb when the ambulance arrived and got her straight to the Cath Lab. She was then admitted to the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit.
“I am just so thankful that I was there and able to help,” Keogh said. “I know that the timing of me being there was not a coincidence. The fact that I was certified in CPR made me much more confident in my ability to act quickly and effectively in that situation.”
Holcomb left the hospital Monday, April 5 and credits Keogh, Norman Regional and EMSSTAT to saving her life. That’s why Norman Regional helped plan a reunion between Holcomb and Keogh, as well as some of the Norman Regional team who cared for her.
“I just appreciate so much that there are people like you guys who are dedicated and know what you’re doing,” Holcomb said during the reunion. “I’m feeling excited that I finally got to meet [Keogh] and some of the others who helped out.”
Holcomb is now doing well and following up with cardiologist Paul Ayers, MD, who was on call at the HealthPlex the night of her cardiac arrest. Dr. Ayers also happens to be Richard’s cardiologist of 10 years.
“Everyone was in the right place at the right time. Dr. Ayers is not just a greater doctor, he’s an awesome guy,” Richard said.
Holcomb said she doesn’t think she’s even processed the whole incident yet, but she knows how lucky she is to be alive and how amazing it is that Keogh was confident enough to step in and perform CPR to save her life.
“How do you thank someone for that? You can’t. I just have to make sure I’m a person she wouldn’t be ashamed of saving,” Holcomb said.
Prior to her cardiac arrest, Holcomb was managing her diabetes, but said she didn’t notice any symptoms or signs of there being a problem with her heart. She said she tried to always walk one to three miles and stay as active, healthy and fit as possible so she could continue to take care of everyone.
“I didn’t know my heart was a ticking time bomb,” Holcomb said. “I never thought I would be the one getting taken care of.”
She added that everyone, at least everyone at the age of 50, should get some preventative tests done to check their heart – either through their primary care doctor, a cardiologist, or even just scheduling a heart scan with Norman Regional.
“You’re not invincible,” Holcomb said. “I just think people could avoid a lot of sudden cardiac events if they just have those tests done.”
Holcomb has previously been certified in CPR twice, but due to this incident reminding her how important it is, she plans to get recertified. She and Keogh both agreed they wish everyone would get certified.
“I would just like to encourage everyone to get CPR certified. Doing the chest compressions are the most important part of CPR and anyone can do it. You seriously never know when you will need it and could end up saving someone’s life,” Keogh said.
Norman Regional has a team of primary care doctors and cardiologists who are accepting new patients and are backed by the accredited Chest Pain Center at the Norman Regional HealthPlex Heart Hospital for anyone wanting to get their heart checked. To find the doctor that’s right for you, simply call 405-515-5000. Norman Regional also offers heart scans at the HealthPlex and at Norman Regional Moore for just $35. Visit NormanRegional.com/heartcare for more information.