Nurse saves man from heart attack at Walmart

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Mercy employee in right place at right time


During a recent trip to Walmart in Cassville Exeter resident Billie Joe Ferrell paid for his groceries, then fell flat on his face. 

“I busted my head open,” he said.

The 63-year-old from Exeter was having a heart attack.

“I told the cashier I felt a bit woozy – that’s about all I remember,” he said.

The afternoon developed into one that shoppers at that rural Walmart will not soon forget.

“I was on break picking up candy for my staff when I heard a lot of commotion on the other side of the store,” said Tiffany Means, an emergency room nurse at Mercy Hospital Cassville. “I dropped everything and ran over there.”

Still in her scrubs, she found Ferrell lying on the floor, unresponsive and without a pulse. Unlike many of the onlookers, she knew just what to do.

“They don’t carry AEDs (automated external defibrillators) at the store, so I immediately started CPR,” Means said. “I kept thinking, ‘he’s at death’s door.’ There still was no pulse, but I was determined to help save him.” 

Within minutes, Mercy Emergency Medical Services crews were on scene to continue the lifesaving mission. Ferrell’s pulse returned, and he was flown to Mercy Hospital Springfield, where heart surgeon Dr. Sirish Parvathaneni performed a double bypass.

“I don’t know how long I was out,” Ferrell said. “But I do know that everything’s been a miracle. If it wasn’t for Tiffany and the Mercy team, I wouldn’t be here today.” 

Ferrell, who had smoked for 50 years, now said he has his best reason to quit. 

“I had a feeling this was coming,” Ferrell said, who is now undergoing cardiac rehab at Mercy. “A few times a week, I’m stretching, walking and using all their machines. I’m feeling great.” 

And, so is Means, especially after a recent special visit by Ferrell. 

“He came by our ER in Cassville on his first day of rehab, to thank me personally,” Means said. “Let me tell you, it was an absolute blessing. It’s pretty emotional to have someone tell you they’re only standing and living life because of you. It’s so rewarding.” 

Ferrell is already on the second phase of his rehab, and plans to share his story to keep others heart healthy.

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