Hayley Meyer ’17 never wanted to be a hero. She never expected she’d save someone’s life. And she certainly never dreamed that someone would be her mother.
But, at 3 a.m. on Nov. 15, 2016, she woke up to her father screaming to call 911.
“It was my worst nightmare, but my adrenaline kicked in as soon as I heard the tone of his voice. I remember the lady saying, ‘What’s your emergency?’ and just staring at my dad giving her CPR. I gave him the phone and took over the CPR. It was probably just seconds, but it felt like an eternity,” says Meyer, who – together with her father – continued the CPR for 10 long minutes until paramedics arrived. “It was the most terrifying experience. It was the first time I’d done CPR on a real person, but I had to trust my training.”
Fortunately, Meyer had recently renewed her CPR training as an athletic training major at the College in the Department of Health and Human Performance. As she says, “Without that training, I probably would have froze.”
But she didn’t. And that – the doctors say – is the only reason that Pauline Meyer is here today. According to the American Heart Association, almost 90 percent of people who suffer out-of-hospital cardiac arrests die. The chance of survival triples, however, if CPR is performed in the first few minutes. And, with less than a 6 percent chance of survival, Pauline Meyer regained consciousness five days after her sudden cardiac arrest.
“In the weeks after, all the nurses and doctors told me and my dad we were heroes, but I never really admitted it to myself,” says Meyer. “Looking back now that I’ve looked at the statistics and done the research, I realize how rare this really is. It’s a very humbling experience.”
And Meyer and her mother are using that experience to help others. The mother-daughter team is representing the American Heart Association as 2018 Go Red for Women ambassadors in the Charleston area.
“Getting involved with that organization and talking to other people with similar stories has been an amazing experience, for my mother especially. It has helped a lot,” says Meyer. “There’s a whole community of survivors – it’s like a little family, a support group.”
The Meyers have used their story to promote CPR training and heart-health awareness – speaking at events and encouraging people to get trained in CPR. Last week, as part of National Heart Month’s awareness campaign, Meyer and her mom spoke at the Go Red for Women luncheon at the Hyatt Place in downtown Charleston, where they told their story and stressed the importance of getting trained in hands-only CPR.
“I tell people that, if I hadn’t had that training and I lost my mom, it would’ve destroyed me,” says Meyer. “I don’t know how I’d live knowing that I could have done something to save her life, but didn’t. I can’t stress the importance of training enough.”