How a couple became CPR learning advocates because of a life threatening event


CPR on wife having heart attack
CPR pivotal to saving wife’s life

On a November evening, Diana and Paul Nickel played a spelling game with their 6-year-old granddaughter, Molly, and had an ice cream birthday cake. While the girls' parents were out of town, the couple stayed with Molly and her 8-year-old sister, Kate.


The girls started getting ready for bed at 7:30 p.m. When Paul heard a bang from the kitchen, he went hunting for a book to read to them. He dashed in to discover his 44-year-old wife on the floor.


Diana lay on her back, her eyes wide open, staring aimlessly into space. She had stopped breathing.


Paul had completed a CPR course 40 years before and began performing chest compressions.


He hesitated for a moment to dial 911, then followed the emergency dispatcher's instructions to count out loud for her.


Paul moved faster through the compressions as she directed.


Dr. Ryan Jacobsen, the medical director for Johnson County (Kansas) EMS, was unwinding at home after a long day at work. When he gets home, he usually turns off his beeper. He didn't this time. He saw the street — only a few blocks from his residence – on the emergency call alert. He went out to assist.


When the doctor took over, Paul had been administering CPR for seven minutes.


Diana remained unresponsive except for gurgling sounds.


More than a dozen emergency responders, including firefighters, police officers, and EMTs, arrived less than a minute later.


They put her on a trolley and tried to restart her heart using an automatic CPR machine. The machine's force, which was squeezing his wife's chest, surprised Paul.


After 40 minutes, Jacobsen decided it was time for one last resuscitation attempt, the "Hail Mary." When nothing else worked, he tried an uncommon technique called double sequential defibrillation, which involves placing paddles on her chest and back. This technique is not recommended by the American Heart Association. According to the most recent studies, its utility has yet to be determined. More research is required to determine its clinical efficacy.


It was successful. The officers went to tell Paul the news, despite his request to wait in another room.