When Debra Lambirth collapsed in the parking lot of IU Health Physicians Primary Care-Glendale, a stranger stopped to offer help. The outcome was nothing short of a miracle.
By IU Health Senior Journalist, T.J. Banes, firstname.lastname@example.org
Six months – that’s about the amount of time Debra Lambirth thinks she may have lived if it hadn’t been for two strangers and a cluster of healthcare professionals.
A few minutes – that’s the amount of time that the two strangers were running late for a doctor’s appointment at IU Health Physicians Care-Glendale.
Seconds – that’s what stood between life and death.
“The stars were aligned. If anything had been any different, I don’t know that the outcome would have been the same,” said Julie Beaubien, the stranger who stopped to assist Lambirth.
It was Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2019 – a day cemented in Lambirth’s memory. She had just left physical therapy at a nearby office, walked back across the parking lot, and stepped out of her car to smoke. Suddenly she felt like she couldn’t breathe.
“Just two months and seven days earlier I was the oldest graduate of Christel House Academy. I had my GED and I was looking forward to the life ahead of me,” said Lambirth. “One minute I felt fine and then I started getting real anxious and I started coughing,” said Lambirth, 65. She leaned on the hood of her sapphire blue Mitsubishi. At the same time, Beaubien and her two boys, Ashton, 10 and Greyson, 8, were leaving the two-story IU Health offices where Ashton had an appointment with Dr. Patrick Kelly.
“When we came out of the offices I could hear Debra coughing and I wondered why I could hear this woman coughing from so far away. When I got to her I asked if she wanted me to call 911 and she said ‘yes,’ but I could also see how serious it was,” said Beaubien.
What happened next is something Lambirth says saved her life.
While Beaubien stayed by the stranger’s side, her son Ashton ran back to the IU Health offices for help.
“I have a big heart, I had instructions and I was sort of aware of what was happening,” said Ashton, a fourth-grader at IPS School 91. On a typical day, this 10-year-old boy, who is a fan of Miami Marlins and Texas Rangers baseball enjoys reading “Diary of Wimpy Kid” books, and relaxing at home.
This day was different.
“I guess I kind of see myself as a hero, a lifesaver,” said Ashton. It was his sense of urgency that alerted the IU Health Physician staff to move quickly. “To be honest at first I thought maybe someone had fallen but the look on Ashton’s face was like ‘guys, this is serious and you need to move,’” said nurse Paula Kramer, who along with Nurse Practitioner Suzanne Lappas rushed to the parking lot and began chest compressions on Lambirth. The help and the supplies just kept coming from the IU Health Physician offices – gloves, AED Defibrillator and extra hands.
“It was a very horrible circumstance and not one that we experience every day at an outpatient clinic, but we were able to be there in the proper time and collectively work as a team,” said Lappas, whose nursing career spans 10 years, including experience in critical care. Kramer’s 25-year career includes ER experience.
“It was like we pulled together our experience and jumped into action. It was the natural thing to do,” said Kramer. “I often wondered how things would go if we were faced with a critical situation and I have no doubts now.”
Lambirth was initially transported to IU Health North and was then airlifted by LifeLine to IU Health Methodist Hospital. Lambirth’s sister, Vanessa Coleman, a nurse at IU Health Methodist, along with Lambirth’s daughter, Angela Lambirth were summoned to the hospital. Lambirth also has a son, Eric Lambirth, along with several grandchildren.
At Methodist Hospital, Lambirth underwent emergency surgery to clear heart blockages. She later had a third procedure. She remained a patient for six days and is in the care of IU Health cardiologist Dr. Ziad Jaradat.
Within days, Lambirth’s daughter was on a mission. She wanted to find the kind stranger who helped save her mom’s life. She canvased the area of IU Health Physician offices and stopped into the neighboring physical therapy office where Lambirth had received treatment on that Wednesday afternoon in August.
A worker in the office happened to know Beaubien. She refrained from providing a phone number so Lambirth’s daughter turned to social media to find the Good Samaritan who came to her mother’s aid.
“I received a random Facebook message and the next thing I knew I had an update on Debra,” said Beaubien.
Through that one act of kindness, the families are no longer strangers.
When Lambirth was released from intensive care, Beubien and Ashton paid her a visit.
“It’s hard for a kid to understand and grasp the impact he had, but there were about 20 family members with Debra and they all hugged us, gave us high-fives and thanked us,” said Beubien, who works as a commercial loan processor and closer. “I have no health experience but here we were at the right place.”
Since the first visit, Beubien and Ashton have kept in touch with Lambirth. They’ve visited her home, exchanged Christmas presents and tasted her homemade cookies. They also learned they have a few things in common – Lambirth, the second oldest of eleven children was born at IU Health Methodist Hospital. Ashton also entered the world at Methodist Hospital.
When they met up on a recent day, Lambirth had a tint of purple in her hair; Ashton had blue highlights.
“I owe so much to Ashton and Julie,” said Lambirth. She hasn’t had a cigarette since her hospital stay. She continues with regular check ups but says she is otherwise back to good health and ready to travel the world.
“I don’t know if I would be alive six months later if it hadn’t been for their kindness. They are my angels.”