Gulfport Woman's Training And Quick Thinking Saves Toddler's Life

It was an emergency Donna DiSalvo never imagined she would ever encounter. In February, she was driving to work along Cowan-Lorraine Road, when she noticed a man, slumped over the steering wheel of an AMR maintenance truck. She stopped to help.

"And he'd had a heart attack, and I had no clue as to what to do," DiSalvo said. "I felt totally lost, totally helpless."

The man, AMR mechanic Woody Weaver, died that day. DiSalvo was devastated.

"I was sad inside," DiSalvo said. "I was angry with myself, because before this had happened, I said I was going to take CPR classes, and I procrastinated. I truly did blame myself. It took awhile to get over that."

Donna DiSalvo was determined not to feel helpless like that again, in case of another emergency. So she contacted AMR, and organized a CPR class, not just for herself, but also her family and 25 co-workers at Keesler Federal Credit Union.

"It is very easy," DiSalvo said. "It's a lot to remember. There's a lot of different situations we were taught, like how to deal with choking."

Thirteen days after her training, DiSalvo faced another crisis. This time, the victim was her own granddaughter.

"She was having a snack. The crackers that she was eating, she doesn't eat one at a time," DiSalvo said. "Several were going in, but they weren't going down. They weren't coming up. She wasn't breathing."

DiSalvo performed the Heimlich Maneuver on two-year old Lauren.

"It didn't happen like February, where I was helpless. I didn't panic this time. I was very surprised," DiSalvo said. "After that, all I could do was hug her. Hug her and a few minutes later, we cried."

DiSalvo credits her CPR lessons for saving Lauren's life.

"Don't put it off, because it may be too late if you put it off," DiSalvo said. "It's awesome to know that you were able to help someone."

"We encourage everyone to learn the signs and symptoms of a stroke and heart attack, and first aid, and CPR training," said AMR Spokesman Rick Fayard. "It improves the survival rate of a family member or loved one tremendously."

AMR trains hundreds of South Mississippians every year. To schedule a CPR class, call (228) 897-6662.