James Owens remembers it like it was yesterday.
He said the mouth of his wife, Laura Diane, was open, her eyes were rolled back, and he was a nervous wreck. Though he didn’t know it at the time, James said, Laura Diane was suffering from a stroke and two heart attacks.
“I was out of my mind,” he said, with tears in his eyes. “I thought she was having a seizure.”
Laura Diane said that due to the incident she doesn’t even recall waking up on the morning of July 12, but James recalls every second.
He said he was following his daily routine that day, but noticed that his wife of 51 years wasn’t herself. He said he persuaded her to leave their Forest Park home to have breakfast at the Forest Park Dwarf House.
Laura Diane, he said, didn’t feel like eating, but agreed to ride along that morning. He said upon arriving at the eatery, the parking lot was empty and there were hardly any patrons inside. James said since his wife mentioned she was “sick to her stomach,” he decided to order her some orange juice, hoping it would alleviate her discomfort.
“I asked the Lord to bless [the] food,” he said. “I take a bite from my food ... and I looked at her and she went a little out of it.”
Then the situation began to worsen for Laura Diane, he said. James grabbed his wife to prevent her from falling on the floor, and her first two angels appeared: Patty Storey and Julie Morris, of the Forest Park Dwarf House.
He said Storey and Morris rushed to the scene and performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation on Laura Diane. “We just walked over to where they were and [for] me, there was no thought behind [performing CPR],” said Morris.
Storey said she was on break and was speaking to Morris, when a superior rushed to them and asked if they knew how to save someone suffering from a heart attack.
“We [came] here around the corner and we knew it was very serious, because we got to her and felt no pulse,” she said.
Both Storey and Morris said they were taught how to perform CPR in high school.
Deputy Fire Chief Matt Jackson, of Forest Park Fire and Emergency Services, said the department received the 911 call relating to the incident at 8:52 a.m. Paramedics arrived at the scene three minutes later.
Jeremy Puckett, a paramedic for Fire and Emergency Services, said Laura Diane still did not have a pulse and was not breathing when they arrived — she was clinically dead and in full cardiac arrest. The victim received CPR and other emergency services before being transported to Southern Regional Medical Center in Riverdale, he explained.
“It is amazing to be honest,” he said. “I mean if more people would do CPR, we’d have a lot more [survivors].”
He said if the bystanders’ CPR hadn’t been performed, Laura Diane may not be alive today.
Once the heart stops beating, blood ceases to flow to the brain and elsewhere, said Puckett. Within a time span of 4 to 6 minutes without blood flow, the brain will begin to die. On average, it takes the ambulance 4 to 7 minutes to arrive at a scene, he said.
“So with [Morris’ and Storey’s] intervention, immediately the compression of the chest returns some blood flow throughout the body, particularly to the brain and the breathing replaces the spinning oxygen,” he said. “[CPR] gets more oxygen into the blood and helps feed the brain to help it survive until whatever corrective measures need to be taken to get the heart to start beating again.”
Fire Chief Eddie Buckholts said if more citizens would perform bystander CPR, it would increase the chance of survival for the victims. He said the fire department offers CPR courses at the Forest Park Recreation and Leisure Services Department.
For husband James,, it is a miracle his wife is by his side today. He said everyone who contributed to her survival is one of God’s angels. “They are all angels,” he said. “God led us all the way through, from the time it started, to the time they got here. It was God’s angels he had lined up.”
James said if Laura Diane had not survived, his life would have no meaning. “I don’t think I could have made it,” he said, holding back tears. “I probably [would have gone] home and taken my blood pressure pills, everyone of them at one time.”
Laura Daniel said she stayed in intensive care at Southern Regional Medical Center for about six days. Her overall hospital stay lasted for about two weeks.
She said her heart attacks and stroke were a result of high cholesterol, and high blood pressure levels, due to poor dieting, as well as her smoking habit.
“I am just so overwhelmed,” she said to everyone involved in her rescue. “I am just so gracious to each and everyone of you. Thank you is not enough.”
For more information about CPR courses, contact the Forest Park Recreation and Leisure Services Department, at (404) 363-2908.