Strangers at Iowa Walmart come together to save 8-month-old suffering cardiac arrest

Posted at 6:56 PM, Mar 05, 2018

Three strangers brought together by chance are now forever bonded by a life-changing ten minutes.

Those moments were the difference between life and death for an 8-month-old girl, Hazel Nelson, who was diagnosed with Transposition of the Great Arteries (TGA) and Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension.

A little over a week ago, the little girl had a close brush with the unthinkable when a quick trip to run errands took an unexpected turn.

"She was blue as blue could be. The bluest baby I've ever seen. Lifeless," said Deanna Berning, an Emergency Room nurse. "No signs of life whatsoever."

Hazel is diagnosed with a rare heart condition and coded that Wednesday inside Walmart. 

"I seriously thought she was dead," said Hazel's mother, Jackie Nelson. "I was so panicked. I mean, I know CPR, but I was so panicked and she started doing CPR and before you know it, the other nurse was doing CPR."

That's when two strangers, connected by happenstance, stepped in. One woman was a pediatric nurse, and the other worked as a trauma nurse. Both gave life saving breaths and chest compressions to little Hazel.

"I started to kind of feel her pulse start to come back and flutter when I was doing CPR by myself but I just kept doing compressions because that's obviously not a normal heartbeat and you've got to get blood going everywhere."

"I'll just never forget when she opened her eyes and there was so much relief," said Mariah Thurman, pediatric nurse. "I was like, 'She's going to be OK, she's going to be OK."

Those moments of panic are what Hazel's mom knew could be a possibility. But she never expected it to happen so soon.

"Even having a sick kid, I was thinking this isn't going to happen to me," Nelson said. "I know CPR but you are panicked and I'm lucky that there's people there who seriously saved her life."

Hazel was rushed to the hospital and returned home last Wednesday.

"When we got to the hospital, I told Brandon that I didn't even get the chance to thank those women, and they just saved her life," Nelson said.

A Facebook post reconnected the three women. On Sunday, Hazel reunited with her heroes.

None had planned on being at Walmart that day, but all say, it was a meeting of more than chance.

"I don't know why we ended up at that Walmart. We have one at home. Why did I go to that one? I don't know. We just ended up there," Berning said.

Berning had just taken a course about a week earlier to become a certified instructor in infant CPR.

Thurman also hadn't planned her trip to Walmart.

"The other nurses at work say it's a good thing you were there, and my response is always 'Somebody would have done it, too. Somebody else would've been there,' " Thurman said. "But then I think, by the time I got over there, she wasn't breathing, and no one was doing anything."

"I do feel like it was fate. And I feel like even though Hazel is sick, she's meant to be here, and she's a fighter. And she's fought so hard for her life. She's an inspiration because she's always smiling," said Nelson.

Hazel spent a few days in the ICU after the incident. She turned home to her family in Minden, Iowa, last Wednesday.