Calif. Teen Saves Her Mom With CPR

Calif. Teen Saves Her Mom With CPR

News Nov 16, 2012

Nov. 16--A Sunnyvale woman is alive and recovering in miraculous fashion after her daughter performed life-saving CPR, a skill her parents didn't even know she had learned.

"Thank God, I wouldn't be here or I'd be brain dead," Lori Dolan said from her bed at El Camino Hospital Thursday afternoon. "It's a miracle."

Dolan, 53, was home Sunday watching the San Francisco 49ers' football game on television with her husband, Larry, when he stepped out momentarily to pull some hamburger patties off the backyard grill.

"I was out one and a half, two minutes max," he said. When he returned, his wife of 29 years was unconscious on the couch, her face turned purple, eyes rolled back and her body cold. Almost immediately, said Larry, "I was in a panic."

Their daughter Lindsay, a 17-year-old junior at Fremont High School, was upstairs and heard her father screaming. She and a friend ran downstairs, where Lindsay started performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation, a technique for blowing air into a distressed victim's mouth to keep feeding oxygen to the brain.

"I didn't know if she was alive or not," Lindsay said. "It was the scariest moment I've ever seen."

Abnormal heart beat

As Lindsay kept doing CPR, her friend ran home to fetch her brother, a paramedic. He returned to help with the CPR until an ambulance arrived with emergency medical gear. Those paramedics took over and administered three electric

shocks over 16 minutes or so, according to Larry Dolan. His wife's heart began to beat again, but by then her brain had been starved of oxygen for almost a half hour.

Dolan had suffered a form of arrhythmia, or cardiac arrest, usually caused by abnormal electrical activity in the heart. At El Camino, according to hospital spokeswoman Chris Ernst, doctors dropped her temperature to 31 degrees and induced a coma for 18 hours to calm the brain. Gradually, over another 18 hours, they raised her body temperature to normal, but doctors didn't know if Dolan would survive or in what condition.

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Larry Dolan said a Catholic priest administered last rites and someone else even came by asking if he would approve donating Lori's organs, if it came to that. Her daughter, sons, sisters visited during those long, terrible 36 hours.

"We all thought that we were going to a funeral," Larry Dolan said.

But his wife woke up.

"I have no memory of anything over the past four days," Lori Dolan said Thursday by phone from her hospital bed. "I don't even remember passing out."

Best moment

Lindsay put her mental status to the test.

"She did everything I asked," Lindsay said. "She opened and closed her eyes when I asked. When I asked her to wiggle her toes, she wiggled her toes."

And for sheer, joyful drama, Lori was able to name every relative in the room and remember their birthdays.

"I went from the worst moment of my life," said Larry Dolan., "to the best moment of my life."

According to Ernst, the hospital's doctors said they had never seen such a recovery. Chief medical officer Dr. Eric Pifer said Lindsay's CPR during the first three minutes made all the difference.

"She save not just her life," noted Pifer, "she save her functionality, too."

As a plus, doctors think that Dolan's arrythmia could be a genetic disorder passed on from her mother, who died 10 years ago when her car ran off the road for no apparent reason. They implanted a device to help Dolan's heart if and when she suffers another stoppage.

While Dolan appears to be recovering very nicely, it is too soon for doctors to give a long term prognosis. But, for now, doctors will test her two sisters for the disorder and so, in the end, Lindsay may have saved more than one life.

"She's the best daughter you could ever with for," Larry Dolan said. "She's the hero."

Contact Joe Rodriguez at 408-920-5767. Follow him on

Copyright 2012 - San Jose Mercury News

San Jose Mercury News
Joe Rodriguez
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