CPR heroes honoured

From left to right: Shelley Johnston, Diane Miller, Cheryl McKnight, Elvie Coletta. / Photo: Owen Egan
From left to right: Shelley Johnston, Diane Miller, Cheryl McKnight, Elvie Coletta. / Photo: Owen Egan

By Jim Hynes

Three days after Thanksgiving, a group of McGill colleagues gathered to give thanks for the most precious gift of all, the gift of life, and to praise the three courageous McGill employees who worked together to save one.

Financial Services employee Cheryl McKnight owes her life to three colleagues who sprang into action after she suffered a massive heart attack at work last April 22. Diane Miller, assisted by Elvie Coletta and Shelley Johnston, performed CPR on McKnight for seven minutes until Urgences santé arrived on the scene.  Hospital officials later acknowledged that their actions effectively saved McKnight’s life.

Miller, Coletta and Johnston were fêted by both McGill and the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada at an awards ceremony and luncheon on Thursday, Oct. 16. The life-saving trio received the Heart and Stroke Foundation Certificate of Civil Action, the first time anyone at McGill has been so honoured.

McGill Principal Heather Munroe-Blum, on hand to present the certificates, acknowledged the extraordinary courage displayed by Miller, Coletta and Johnston, and called attention to the way the trio worked together as well.

“We hear about some of the attributes of the work you did, and courage and preparation are part of it.  But it strikes me as well that the teamwork that the three of you employed was overwhelming,” she said. “The presence of mind, the ability to work literally as a single organism to save the life of Cheryl was extraordinary, and reflects the very best of the standards, talents, dedication and collegiality of McGill, and so thank you for that in every way.”

An emotional but otherwise healthy and happy McKnight, who returned to work at the beginning of July, thanked her saviours as well as the many concerned colleagues who called and sent cards while she recovered at home.

“I am here today because of Diane, Elvie and Shelley. That day changed my life immensely. I want to thank everyone who helped in any way, no matter how small,” she said. “The doctors said I made a miraculous recovery, and I thank God for giving me that second chance.”

Luckily for Cheryl McKnight, Diane Miller was her office’s official “First Aider,” trained in CPR techniques at a course offered through McGill’s Office of Environmental Health and Safety. For information on the Office and the courses offered through it, visit www.mcgill.ca/ehs or call 514-398-4563.