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Against all odds

CPR by friend starts chain of miracles that saves a life
by: VERN UYETAKE Jessica Metteer, left, is delighted she knew proper CPR techniques last February when co-worker Hallie Gentry, right, collapsed in their office at the Homebuilders Association of America in Lake Oswego. Metteer’s quick response is credited with saving the life of Gentry.

Hallie Gentry looks exactly like an everyday wife, mother and business professional.

What she is most of all, though, is an odds buster. When she suffered a heart attack right at her workplace at the Homebuilders Association of America in Lake Oswego, the percentages were totally against her surviving. She should have been dead within a couple minutes after slumping to the floor in her office.

Fortunately, co-worker Jessica Metteer did not know about any scary statistics. But she did know CPR, and she proceeded to pull her friend back from the brink.

'From what I've learned about CPR treatment, the numbers for a full recovery are staggeringly low,' Gentry said. 'I've lived to tell about it.'

'This is the first time I ever had to save a life. I hope I never have to do it again,' Metteer said with a laugh. 'But I was glad I was in the right place at the right time.'

Being the right person helped, too.

The whole incident started off as a joke. At least that's what everyone thought. On a day last February, Gentry, Metteer and other HBA employees had just gotten back to the office from an intense morning of work of preparing TV programs for HBA's Home and Garden Show. Suddenly, Gentry collapsed.

'Jessica heard me hit the wall, and called out, 'Hey Clumsy!'' Gentry said. 'I didn't give any response. They found me on the floor in full-blown cardiac arrest.'

The reaction of everyone else was to do nothing. Ever since her childhood it was thought that Gentry suffered from a seizure disorder and that the best treatment was to do nothing. The passing wisdom was 'Let her lie there. The worse thing you can do is to try to help. She'll get over it.'

But Metteer had only been at HBA for two weeks and didn't know about Gentry's so-called seizure disorder. Certified in CPR in 2000, she only knew what she saw.

'I hadn't gotten the info yet, even though Hallie and I had run in the same circles for eight years in Portland,' Metteer said. 'I knew I should check her breathing, her pulse, call 9-1-1 and do CPR.

'I told everybody, 'No, this is not that. Please don't tell me to stop.' '

Metteer's quick action ensured that Gentry would not die or suffer severe disablement. The rest of the rescue went like clockwork.

'Fortunately, the paramedics arrived quickly and did their life-saving protocol and got my heart started,' Gentry said. 'At the hospital (Legacy Meridian Park Medical Center) they performed hypothermic treatment that slowed the damage to my heart by cooling my body, which is a new protocol that hasn't been used for very long.'

'Hallie's case was a little unusual,' said Dr. Robert Quintos, who treated Gentry upon her arrival at Meridian Park. 'The majority of people who suffer cardiac arrest don't make it to the hospital. The odds are against you from the outset.

'On top of that, survivors are often left with defects in thinking, speech and memory. None of this appears in Hallie. Early CPR was the difference in her case. Everyone should learn it.'

Gentry only missed a month of work and says, 'It was incredible I felt so good so quickly.'

Today, Hallie Gentry is a walking miracle in the halls and offices of HBA. Her future looks better than ever because her condition has finally been properly diagnosed as a genetic disorder. She can now look for the correct symptoms, and she can be ready if the same condition someday shows up in her 5-year-old daughter.

'I have good peace of mind,' Gentry said.

Metteer is officially a hero because she was honored with the Lifesaver Award by the American Heart Association just a month after the incident. All the organizations involved in the rescue teamed up to make sure Metteer received the honor.

However, Metteer is a hero with the right perspective.

'That could just as easily have been me on the floor,' she said.

Still, Metteer is delighted that the story of her rescue of Gentry has given such excellent publicity to CPR training, reaching a high point two weeks ago with the AHA 'Go Red For Women' luncheon in Portland, which raised a new record of $112,000 for heart research. A video was shown about Metteer and Gentry and the making of their unusual friendship.

It was a lucky chain of events that resulted in saving Gentry's life. Now that heart-warming story is raising increased awareness of the need for CPR training and equipment.

'Hallie is an amazing miracle,' Metteer said. 'She is a great mom, a great wife and a great worker, and now we have this connection.

'A cycle (of death) was stopped. The whole thing was really lucky.'

Jessica Metteer is honored as a local hero

Jennifer Stafford was thrilled with the honor paid to Jessica Metteer for saving the life of Hallie Gentry.

That is because it helps her develop more life savers by giving them CPR training.

'If Jessica had not known CPR, there was a good chance that Hallie would not have survived at all,' said Stafford, who is a critical care nurse. 'CPR keeps all of the vital organs working until the patient gets some heavy duty care.

'With every second of delay there is a 10 percent less chance of a stroke victim surviving.'

Stafford has made it her life's mission to make many other people knowledgeable in those vital early techniques of CPR. She speaks with much passion about her cause.

'I talk to community service groups and businesses,' Stafford said. 'I give a half hour presentation called 'Hands Only,' where I talk about the importance of calling 9-1-1 and the symptoms of a stroke and give an AED demonstration.

'It's a lot of fun and it's a way of getting out in the community. People who see it should be able to help someone, even if they have never taken a CPR class.'

A veteran nurse with 25 years of experience, Stafford calls it a 'luxury' to see how lives are saved with CPR.

'It's pretty exciting,' she said. 'I know CPR saves lives. I have a passion to get more people involved.'

Naturally, Stafford attended the 'Go Red For Women' luncheon at the Oregon Convention Center and met Hallie Gentry and Jessica Metteer. She has long coordinated heart heroes awards, and she was happy to see another hero recognized.

'I am glad to see the hospital make this a day of celebration,' Stafford said.

Stafford was pleased to note she would be teaching CPR at the Remodeler Association for Metteer in November.