CPR training saves a life: Calif. wrangler puts newly acquired skills to use

CARMEL VALLEY, Calif. When Melissa Cobbett of Carmel Valley saw a woman lying on the road in her neighborhood surrounded by onlookers Sunday afternoon, she knew exactly what to do.

Cobbett, 30, and Kevan Strathmeyer, horse wranglers and summer camp counselors at Holman Ranch in Carmel Valley, had taken a cardiopulmonary resuscitation course June 9 at the Carmel Valley Fire District’s Mid-Valley station in preparation for this summer’s camping season.

“I wanted to be able to tell parents who dropped off their first-borns with me to play with 1,200-pound animals and use a swimming pool that I knew CPR,” Cobbett said. “I never in a million years thought that I’d actually use it.”

She was driving from her home on Robinson Canyon Road back to work shortly after 2 p.m. when she saw people grouped around the 47-year-old woman lying on the road in jogging togs.

A video that was included in the two-hour course taught by fire engineer Lee Warner showed just this kind of scenario, Cobbett said. “It was a what-do-you-do? situation. It was just like that.”

One man was talking on a cell phone, she said, and she told him to tell firefighters “to bring an AED” — automatic external defibrillator — to the scene.

She immediately began CPR — 30 compressions, followed by two breaths — while her brother, John Chavers, held the woman’s hand and checked for a pulse.

“I did about five sets,” Cobbett recalled. “I remember looking at her and thinking, ‘She’s dead.’ There was no breathing.”

During Warner’s class, she said, 30 chest compressions on a CPR dummy “seemed to take forever. This time it went by so fast.”

At one point, Cobbett said, the woman squeezed her brother’s hand and looked at him. “Her lips were ashy. I told myself, ‘Don’t stop, you can’t stop, don’t quit.'”

Cobbett continued the breath-and-compress drill even after an ambulance and paramedics arrived and began setting up emergency equipment.

The paramedics “told me, ‘Don’t stop, keep going.’ That made me feel pretty good.”

Her patient gasped and vomited, Cobbett said, and the paramedics administered a defibrillator shock and placed the woman in the ambulance and took her to Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula.

She then went on to work. “I had a 2:30 p.m. trail ride to lead,” Cobbett said, “and I was already late.”

Cobbett, a 1995 graduate of Carmel High School, has worked at Holman Ranch for the past 3½ years.

Instructor Warner said Cobbett was the first civilian student in his 20 years of teaching cardiopulmonary resuscitation to come back and report that she had actually had to do CPR.

“She was paying really good attention to the class. She’ll probably be my guest speaker at my next class. She can talk with some experience now.”

Cobbett described Warner as “such a good teacher. A lot of things he said stuck in my head while I was doing it. He told us not many people make it, that it’s a last-ditch thing.”

Fire Chief Sidney Reade said the woman arrived at the hospital conscious and talking, and is expected to pull through.

“She really did save her life,” Reade said. “Melissa came upon a person who absolutely did not have a heartbeat, started CPR, and kept her going until the crew got to the scene and put the defibrillator paddles on. It was textbook.”

The paramedics restored the woman’s heartbeat with electric shock and she began to breathe on her own, Reade said.

“It’s one thing to have to take the class for your job,” she said, “and another thing to perform that skill on a stranger. A lot of people take the class for their job, but some people take the class because they want to save a life. Melissa was willing to save the life of a stranger. I commend her for doing that.”

The Fire Department has five CPR instructors, including herself and Warner, Reade said, and “we’ve been teaching CPR here since it was teachable. We teach it for free, practically weekly, to any group.”

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