St. Amant woman reunited with paramedic who saved her life

Kathleen LeBlanc hugs paramedic Eric Smith
Kathleen LeBlanc hugs paramedic Eric Smith

May 16, 2013, is the day that Kathleen LeBlanc nearly died. She had just returned home from the hospital after a routine surgery on her wrist.  However, at dinner with her husband she began to feel nauseous and faint.

Her husband, Lynn LeBlanc, worried that she was having a diabetic spell and called his sister Shirley for help.  By the time she arrived, they both realized something was terribly wrong, and they called 911. Her husband and sister-in-law had no idea that Kathleen was having a heart attack.  Within minutes, first responders from the St. Amant Volunteer Fire Department were on scene.

"We found a female patient, no pulse, not breathing. Due to the training we have every week here and due to the extensive training we've had we knew exactly what to do," said volunteer firefighter Jennifer Hebert.

Hebert and another responder, Stacey Denham, began CPR and rescue breathing.  They also used a defibrillator to shock Kathleen's heart.  All the while, Lynn and Shirley looked on.

"He said, 'My wife, my wife can't die,'" recalled Shirley Clouatre. "I said, 'She's going to be ok.' But, in the back of my mind I thought she's not going to make it."

A few minutes later, paramedics with Acadian Ambulance arrived and took over the recovery, starting an IV and pumping Kathleen with cardiac drugs.  Within ten minutes, her pulse and blood pressure had returned.

First responders estimate that Kathleen was without a pulse for eight to ten minutes, but she survived thanks to the hard work of the first responders.

She was hospitalized 26 days while she endured a slow and tough recovery.  She says she now has a new normal.

"I stumble a lot; I fall down a lot, but all of these things I can handle. It's just minor. I had to get well. I have three grandchildren. I have to see them grow up. They gave me that back," said Kathleen.

Kathleen says she doesn't remember anything that happened, but even in the hospital, she knew she had to meet her personal heroes.  More than four months after her heart stopped, Kathleen was reunited with Eric Smith, one of the Acadian paramedics who helped save her life.  She hopes to soon meet the volunteer firefighters as well.

"It's very exciting, it's humbling, it's a lot of emotions rolled up in one. You can't explain it in words," said Smith who says this is the first time in his five years of working to meet someone he has saved. "To give Mrs. LeBlanc sometime back with her family, it's very, very awesome."

Overwhelmed with gratitude, Kathleen and her family offered thanks and appreciation to everyone who was involved that day.

"It makes the long hours away from our family worth it," said Smith.

"To have somebody who can go home and be with their families and celebrate holidays and celebrate birthdays and be with their kids, it's an amazing feeling," agreed Hebert.

All the first responders say proper and effective CPR training is what saved Kathleen's life.  Community classes for CPR are available for anyone to take.  For more information, click here.

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