At Springhill Toyota in Mobile, Alabama, General Manager Mike Ricardy’s office is located on the showroom floor in earshot of the customer service waiting area.
On October 13 of last year, Ricardy was sitting in his office going about his day as usual when he heard something alarming: Lisa Devries, who worked as a service advisor at the dealership at the time, was screaming for help, yelling urgently for someone to call 911.
“It was really scary,” Ricardy recalls. “I ran out of my office and saw one of our customers lying on the floor. Honestly, it didn’t look good because she was unresponsive and blue. I didn’t think she would make it.”
The woman on the floor was Lisa Perry. She was sitting in the customer service area waiting on her vehicle to be serviced when she went into sudden cardiac arrest. Slumped in her chair, her heart stopped beating and she stopped breathing.
Perry may not have survived were it not for a set of remarkable circumstances and a lifesaving device the dealership had on hand.
Sitting in the waiting room with Perry that day were Shennon Lambeth, Cindy Hubbart and Makayla Reed, three customers who also happened to be nurses. In addition to getting Perry down on the floor and administering lifesaving CPR, the nurses used the dealership’s automated external defibrillator, or AED, to save her life.
According to the American Heart Association, a person who experiences sudden cardiac arrest outside of a hospital environment has only a 10% chance of surviving. But when someone nearby is trained in CPR or an AED is available, the chance of survival increases to 50%.
Lambeth, who is a nurse, was well aware of those statistics.
“Thank God Springhill Toyota had the AED here,” she told an NBC15 reporter. “We knew how to use it, we put it into action, and that’s why she’s here,”
Lambeth spoke to the reporter at Springhill Toyota in early January when Perry came back to the dealership to meet with the nurses who saved her life. Several local news stations covered the meeting, interviewing Perry as she thanked Lambeth, Hubbart and Reed for saving her life. A grandmother of 10, she said she was most happy to have more time with her family.
“It was an amazing thing,” Ricardy says. “When she came back into the dealership in January to meet with the nurses and thank everyone who helped save her life, she looked great.”
On that day last October, no one at Springhill Toyota knew whether Perry would survive. She was still unresponsive when paramedics rolled her on a gurney into the back of the ambulance and rushed her to the hospital. Perry spent the next six weeks in a medically induced coma before waking up in early December and learning what happened to her.
Ricardy says everyone at the dealership and all three of the nurses who administered CPR to Perry were thrilled to find out in early January that she was alive and well.
“Having an AED on hand might seem like a small thing, but that day it was actually a huge thing,” he says. “We’re always looking for ways to better serve our community. While we hope that none of our customers or employees ever experience a cardiac arrest, we’re very happy that we had that AED on hand when it was needed.”
Toyota dealerships are not required to have AEDs, but for Springhill Toyota Dealer Principal Tal Vickers, the decision to have an AED onsite was a personal one.
“In 2016, my father had a major heart attack,” he says. “It was a similar situation. He was in downtown Birmingham when it happened. The good Lord provided a cardiac nurse, police officer and AED nearby. Without that AED he would have died. Soon thereafter, we bought one for the dealership.”
After witnessing first-hand how an AED and CPR can save a life, around a dozen Springhill Toyota service and sales employees were inspired to earn CPR certification. Each employee completed a series of online courses. Then, in February, the dealership brought in a team of instructors to finish the in-person portion of the training and finalize their certification.
“We are so happy we had that defibrillator here,” Vickers says. “God forbid that situation ever happens again, but if it does, we’ll be prepared to do whatever we can to save a life.”