A sweltering hot day in March saw Carnegie Chemmart pharmacist Betty Crocker save a life.
It was an ordinary, but busy day at the Carnegie Chemmart Pharmacy, where the 44-year-old mother of three—who has a name that invariably raises a smile—was working. The mercury was nudging 40 degrees and more customers than usual were coming in to buy water.
When two people rushed in from the street screaming for help, Crocker hesitated only long enough to grab a box of surgical gloves.
“I saw a lady lying on the pavement,” Crocker says.
“Her eyes were open and there was blood coming from her mouth, nose, and a cut on her face. She had no pulse and was clinically dead. It was worse than a horror movie.”
Crocker immediately started cardiopulmonary resuscitation, realising there was no time to lose.
“I started chest compressions in an effort to get her heart going and had someone else clear her tongue away from her airways while I continued CPR,” Crocker says.
“But there was no response after some minutes of working on her. I started talking to her, telling her: ‘Come back now. I will give you my life energy’.
“Then came a moment – just like you see on TV – where she was resuscitated with a great rush of air. She was alive but still in bad shape.”
Even when the ambulance arrived six minutes later, Crocker needed to continue CPR until the defibrillator was set up.
“I think I worked on her for about ten minutes in total until she was stabilised and taken away to hospital,” Crocker says.
The woman she saved was 40-year-old mother-of-two Karen Phillips – who acknowledges how lucky she was to be “in the right place, at the right time and with the right people”.
“I am extremely grateful,” Phillips told Channel 10’s The Project. “I don’t have any recollection of the day. But from what everyone’s told me, Betty is definitely my saviour.”
Phillips is now out of hospital and back living a normal life after being fitted with an internal defibrillator to restart her heart should it spontaneously stop again.
Betty is now urging people to learn CPR as part of a first aid course – especially as this is the second time in 10 years she’s needed the skill to save a life.
“A lot of people have told me they wish they knew what to do in a crisis like this,” Crocker says. “It can happen to anyone, at any time. Even kids want to know what to do.
“In fact, Karen has told me she’s now setting up a first aid course at her children’s school.”
Carnegie Chemmart Pharmacy is running its own first aid course on April 19, with a focus on CPR. Although it’s open to anyone, many of the participants will be Chemmart staff members inspired by their colleague’s example.
“The more people who know CPR, the safer everyone will be,” says Carnegie Chemmart Pharmacy’s retail manager Rebecca Farrell.
“We want to be known as a health destination for the community and the more professional services we can offer, the better.”
Betty says she is quietly chuffed by the positive feedback she’s received from ambulance officers at the scene and Karen’s specialist doctors – who all emphasise the critical importance of early intervention in cases like this. She’s since caught up with Karen Phillips a couple of times since that day on March 8.
“My birthday was a week later,” she says. “Seeing Karen happy, healthy and safely back with her family was the best present I could have possibly received.”