Surrounded by their families, JoAnn Bingham and Carla Hunter swapped their stories of survival.
Bingham and Hunter attended the La Vista City Council meeting lasty month where 12 first responders were recognized for their lifesaving actions.
The calls involving Bingham, who had a seizure and went into cardiac arrest, and Hunter, who’s infant daughter stopped breathing, both came in the month of December.
Calls of CPR in progress are some of the most stressful that officers respond to, said La Vista Police Chief Bob Lausten.
“Those calls usually mean lives are at stake,” he said. “The police officers’ efforts would not be successful without the assistance of other public safety professionals, specifically the Sarpy 911 dispatcher and Papillion firefighters.”
Bingham, 64, remembers very little about the morning of Dec. 4.
She woke up around 4 a.m. and wasn’t feeling well, but was still determined to go to work.
While she was getting ready, her sister Sue Bingham called into the bathroom to check on her. When Bingham didn’t answer, her sister entered the bathroom where she found Bingham having a seizure.
Bingham’s niece, Kellie Bingham, called 911 and within minutes, Officers Dana Miller and Brian Matthew arrived to find Bingham in cardiac arrest.
Miller happened to be a few houses away when the call came in.
“Everything came together that night,” Miller said. “Everything was in the right place at the right time.”
Matthew began CPR while Miller prepped the victim for a shock from an automated external defibrillator. Officers gave Bingham two shocks and continued CPR until paramedics arrived.
She was taken to the hospital where she later underwent heart surgery.
Miller and Matthew, both six-year veterans, said their training kicked in automatically.
“Your heart’s pumping, you’re breathing a little bit differently,” Miller said.
Matthew added: “Over the years, you kind of learn to slow your heart down and take a deep breath. You want to do your best for the person you’re trying to save.”
For Bingham, it was a great chance to recognize the first responders who helped to save her life.
“Tonight was wonderful,” she said. “Now I can put a face to those who helped me. It really meant a lot.”
Hunter called 911 just before midnight on Dec. 31.
Shortly after Hunter fed her 5-week-old daughter, Faith Rickers, the baby started to fuss and spit up.
When the baby went limp and stopped breathing, Hunter grabbed her cellphone and called 911. Dispatcher Bryan Patten was walking Hunter through CPR when Officers TJ Jacik and Steve Walter arrived.
Officers found that the baby had no pulse, so they immediately began CPR and chest compressions.
By the time firefighters arrived, the baby was breathing and had a pulse. She was taken to the hospital and later released.
Hunter plans on keeping in touch with the officers, so Faith will one day know the story.
“It was awesome to see them again,” she said. “One day, she’ll just know that these are her heroes. I think me and her both have some angels watching over us.”
Last year, Papillion firefighters responded to calls like the ones involving Bingham and Hunter 27 times — averaging out to about two per month, said Papillion Fire Chief Bill Bowes.
“When somebody dies, when their heart quits, there’s a narrow window of opportunity to bring them back to life,” Bowes said. “On those rare occasions, it’s really rewarding to see them. In the case with the baby, it’s even more amazing. The kids — infants and children — really strike your heart a little bit more.”
The same group of firefighters responded to both calls. Those recognized were Jason Schendt, Bob Engberg, Jeremy Orr, Aaron Anderson, Michael Borden, Matt Sullivan and Todd Moffett.
La Vista Mayor Doug Kindig thanked the first responders for their efforts.
“You never know when you’re going to need help until the time arrives and our first responders, from the dispatchers to our fire department and our police department, were there to save two lives,” Kindig said.
Kindig commended the city’s former volunteer fire department, but said response times with the Papillion Fire Department’s service have given “better service and partnership” and were instrumental in saving the lives of Bingham and Faith.
Lausten said training kicks in on these types of calls and officers are able to set aside their emotions to do their job.
“You do what you’ve got to do,” he said. “In this case, the officers were trained and experienced.”
Seeing Bingham and Faith was a good feeling for Lausten and made him proud of the first responders involved.
“To see them here kind of blows me away,” Lausten said. “To see the officers taking photos with the saves, that’s pretty cool. It makes you proud to work with these people.
“When I call for my family, I know the quality of people who are going to show up. That makes me fortunate to live in a community like this.”