Heartsaver Hero: Maryland mom, realtor recalls saving a life with Hands-Only CPR in front of her kids

Jessica Shamer thought she might be helping her kids save the life of a turtle run over by a car about 10 years ago. Instead, she ended up saving the life of a man who experienced a sudden cardiac arrest that day using Hands-only CPR.

Shamer, of Pasadena, Maryland, had taken her children and an injured turtle to a local veterinarian one day after school, when the children discovered the reptile on the way home from the bus stop. The turtle did not receive a good prognosis, and not wanting to upset her children, Shamer decided to take them next door for Italian ice to cheer them up.

While waiting in line, a man tapped her on the shoulder and asked if she could call 9-1-1 because he wasn’t feeling well. She helped him to a seat and he suddenly began having a seizure and collapsed, she said.

Another bystander started chest compressions while Shamer dialed 9-1-1. Once she was off the phone – an employee of the store had also called it in – the bystander asked Shamer to take over chest compressions.

Shamer, who worked in a school at the time, had been trained in CPR and jumped in.

“I thought, oh my gosh, if I can’t let my children know about a turtle dying, I can’t let this person die right in front of them,” she said.

She quickly began Hands-Only CPR and was relieved when color began returning to the man’s face as medics arrived on the scene. The man was breathing and talking to emergency personnel as he was taken to a local hospital, Shamer said.

Her children couldn’t have been more proud of their mom, bragging about her heroic actions to their father when he got home from work later that day.

“At the time, I had a t-shirt that said, ‘I’m a teacher, what’s your superpower?’ so they made a little sign to put over the teacher part that said ‘I can do CPR, what’s your superpower?’” Shamer said.

“But really, it was just instinctual, I just jumped in and started doing what I had been taught,” she continued. “I always wondered if I’d be able to do it in an emergency and now I know I can. Thankfully, I haven’t had another opportunity to have to do CPR, but if I ever do, I feel really confident I can do it.”

Because of that experience, Shamer wants to make sure her whole office is trained in CPR by this year’s Greater Maryland Heart Walk, which takes place Oct. 8 at the Maryland State Fairgrounds. Shamer is the vice president of the Columbia, Maryland, branch of Coldwell Banker Realty.

Staff from the American Heart Association in Baltimore and Greater Maryland recently visited the Columbia office to give a CPR demonstration and to present Shamer with a Heartsaver Hero Award for her actions.

“Everyone should know CPR, absolutely. You don’t know where you’re going to be, what you’re going to be doing or who you’re going to be around,” Shamer said. “This was a complete stranger, but it could’ve been someone in my family and I’d hope that if this did happen to someone in my family someone around them would know enough to at least do the hands-only compressions until an ambulance gets there.”