If Mary Lovelace had lingered at dinner a little longer, she might have missed him.
Had she left the restaurant a couple of minutes earlier, she wouldn’t have been next to Angelo Valenti when he collapsed.
But luck intervened, and Lovelace — a nurse at Loyola University Medical Center — happened to be walking down a sidewalk in Scottsdale, Arizona, on March 24 at the exact same time that Valenti, of Highland Park, fell to the ground midconversation, going into cardiac arrest.
As people yelled around her, Lovelace knelt on the brick pavers and gave Valenti — whom she had never met — CPR. She pumped on his chest for nearly eight minutes, until an ambulance arrived, helping to save his life.
“Thank God she was there because every doctor I’ve seen since I’ve gotten back starts off with, ‘Do you realize how lucky you are?’ ” said Valenti, 58, now back in Highland Park recovering from the ordeal. “To have a nurse right next to me, literally, was just a miracle.”
Each year more than 350,000 people in the U.S. experience cardiac arrest — which is when the heart suddenly stops beating — outside of a hospital environment, according to the American Heart Association. About 90% of those people die, but performing immediate CPR can double or triple a person’s chance of survival, according to the American Heart Association. Cardiac arrest is different than a heart attack.
It was only after Lovelace gave Valenti CPR that she learned they were both from the Chicago area, vacationing in Arizona that week.
“I just said, ‘Angelo, someone was watching out for you,’ ” said Susie Cohn, one of Valenti’s friends, who was on vacation with him at the time and saw everything unfold. “She’s from Loyola. We’re all from Chicago. She’s on vacation. We’re on vacation.”
Lovelace, also 58, had flown from Chicago to Arizona early that same morning, and was visiting with friends over dinner at a restaurant in a Scottsdale shopping center. Yawning over her meal, Lovelace told her friends that she had to get going.
As she was walking out of the shopping center with her friend and her friend’s adult son, Valenti and his friends and family were heading toward Shake Shack for dinner. Valenti, his wife and two 15-year-old twin sons were spending spring break in Arizona with Cohn and her family, who are longtime friends, also from Highland Park.
As he was joking and talking, Valenti bumped into Cohn. He then fell onto the adult son of Lovelace’s friend, walking nearby.
“The next thing we knew, he was on this guy’s feet,” Cohn said. “I thought he was being funny.”
At first, Lovelace also wondered if it was a joke. She soon realized it wasn’t.
“I looked down and I’m like, ‘Oh, gosh,’ ” Lovelace said. “He was really gray already.”
Her training as a nurse kicked in immediately, and she started directing the people around her to call 911 and search for an automated external defibrillator. She dropped to the ground and started chest compressions.
“People were crying and yelling his name, and I completely blocked that out,” she said.
Lovelace — who has worked as a NICU nurse at Loyola for 37 years — had performed CPR before, but never on an adult and never outside of a hospital.
When she performs CPR on babies, she uses two fingers to press down on their chests. With Valenti, she had to use both hands, and the force of her entire body, to keep his heart pumping.
“I’m only 5-foot, 2-inches,” Lovelace said. “I knew I had to go harder.”
Just a couple of weeks earlier, Lovelace had participated in a CPR review class.
A few minutes in, she felt one of his ribs break from the pressure. She heard him draw in a sharp breath. “In my mind, I’m like, ‘Oh buddy, I’m sorry, but thank goodness you’re still breathing,’ ” Lovelace said.
An ambulance soon arrived, and the emergency medical technicians took over from Lovelace, and rushed him to a nearby hospital.
Cohn turned to Lovelace to ask her if he was being taken to a good hospital, and Lovelace replied that she wasn’t from Scottsdale. That’s when they realized they were all from the Chicago area. They exchanged numbers, and Lovelace followed up with Cohn in the following days to see how Valenti was doing.
Valenti said for the first day or so that he was in the hospital, he wasn’t responding to his name. But eventually he came around, to the relief of his family and friends.
Doctors in Arizona inserted a implantable cardioverter defibrillator in his chest to prevent another cardiac arrest, Valenti said. He’s still not sure exactly what caused him to go into cardiac arrest that day in March, though he did have a mitral valve repair years ago. Valenti said he felt fine all day, leading up to his collapse in Scottsdale.
About a week after going into cardiac arrest, Valenti was able to fly home to Highland Park.
He has no memory of falling on the sidewalk in Scottsdale, and doesn’t recall much about the day before or after.
But his friends and family have filled him in about what Lovelace did that day.
“I’m pretty amazed, just to be here and talking,” Valenti said. “I feel like I have another birthday March 24. I died and lived through it and now every day I have is extra thanks to Mary.”
Recently, Valenti called Lovelace to say thank you. They talked about their families, their jobs and, of course, the day she came to his rescue.
“It was very powerful, and us talking to each other, it was a very emotional conversation,” Lovelace said. “I’m glad I was there at the right time to do what I know how to do and what I’ve been trained to do over the years.”
Valenti plans to have Lovelace and her family over this summer, once he’s fully recovered. He said he’s already feeling much more like himself, with more energy and less pain in his chest.
“I told her we are forever connected,” Valenti said. “I said there’s definitely going to be Christmas cards every year. There’s a bond there now.
“She will never have to buy another bottle of wine the rest of her life,” said Valenti, who works for a wine distributor.
Cohn, who witnessed everything, said what happened has given her renewed faith in humanity, “especially when the world is a little upside down right now.”
“It just really goes to show, for me, how a nurse isn’t just someone who works their job when they clock in at a hospital,” Cohn said. “She just didn’t hesitate. She didn’t think twice. She was just on top of this man that she didn’t know.
“It just shows what a heart nurses have. Their instinct just kicks in and they save people no matter if it was their vacation.”
Source : https://www.chicagotribune.com/business/ct-biz-loyola-nurse-cpr-arizona-highland-park-20220430-urg6glxuzbbmxk36liw6bgaxny-story.html#ed=rss_www.chicagotribune.com/arcio/rss/category/news/