During a game of tag, 4-year-old Vera Posy collapsed. Dad Matt Uber found her and immediately started chest compressions and breaths until help arrived. He had no formal training — he remembered how to perform CPR from an episode of “The Office." His quick actions helped save Vera’s life.
“When I was trying to think about what do I know about CPR, (my mind literally went) to that episode of ‘The Office,’ where they are doing CPR training and doing the compressions to the beat of ‘Stayin’ Alive,’” Uber, 46, of Carmel, Indiana, told TODAY. “It’s just what kicks in, what’s in your head, and that’s fortunate.”
Uber and his wife, Erin, are sharing Vera’s story to help others understand the importance of CPR.
“If you have a base of CPR and a knowledge of AED (automated external defibrillator) … you can change a family’s life, you can change a person’s life, which could change the world,” Uber said.
A game of tag and a medical emergency
On April 25, Uber and Vera played tag around the house when suddenly the giggling stopped and Uber “heard a thud.”
“She was just balled up against the corner. My natural assumption was that she had tripped and fallen and hit her head,” Uber explained. “When I picked her up off the ground, she was just limp, her eyes were kind of rolled back.”
Uber shouted for his older daughter Nora to call 911 as he laid Vera flat on the floor.
“I observed that she was not breathing and she was turning pale,” he said.
That’s when his mind flashed back to “The Office” episode where staff learned CPR. He placed his hands where he believed they should be and started compressions to the beat of the iconic Bee Gee’s song.
“I remembered to lift her neck and make sure that she wasn’t choking or having a seizure,” Uber explained. “I was panicked and it was chaotic. In the meantime, the wonderful 911 operator got on and talked me through the process.”
Soon after the paramedics arrived and they took over with CPR and then used the defibrillator.
“On the second delivery of shock, she responded and we heard her little cry,” Uber said.
Uber’s basic CPR made a difference for Vera.
“Matt had felt some guilt — was he able to deliver CPR appropriately? — and he got lots of attention about being a hero,” Erin told TODAY. “Until he knew that it was delivered appropriately and adequately, he could not really rest.”
Vera collapsed after experiencing cardiac arrest. When she arrived at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis, the doctors needed to uncover why a healthy 4-year-old experienced this scary medical emergency.
“There was never any indication of any issues, let alone serious cardiac issues,” Uber said. “I didn’t have any suspicion that we were dealing with a condition that led to have having cardiac arrest. I assumed it was something to do with her hitting her head.”
An unusual diagnosis
Doctors first discovered that Vera had a mild case of cardio ventricular non-compaction, a muscular condition where the left ventricle of the heart doesn’t form correctly. But they didn’t think this muscle abnormality caused Vera’s cardiac arrest. They suspected that there was a different problem that led to erratic heartbeats.
“They were a bit perplexed by her symptoms,” Uber said. “We’d hear one thing and then be praying about answers for that and the next morning there would be a new piece of data.”
Vera underwent genetic testing among other tests and the family eventually learned she had calmodulinopathy, an uncommon and life-threatening condition that causes arrhythmia in young people.
“It’s a very rare,” Uber said. “There’s not much data.”
Doctors recommended that Vera be fitted with an implantable cardioverter defibrillator, which rests under the skin to jolt the heart if it stops. While adults often receive ICDs, it’s slightly harder to place them in children because of their size. Vera’s is nestled in her abdomen.
“She’s the youngest ICD placement at Riley’s Children Hospital,” Erin said. “While we are hopeful of course that she is safe and protected forever we also have a mission or a commitment, both, (to learn) rudimentary CPR — YouTube it — or to go through a formal training because quite honestly, there may be a time that our baby will need it.”
Recovery and spreading awareness
Vera is back to enjoying her toddler life. Her scars and the device remain well hidden unless she shows them.
“She is feeling normal, acting normal, happy, causing trouble like every 4-year-old should,” Uber said.
Vera doesn’t have any memory of the experience or the hospital, but her parents have helped her cope with what she might feel when she hears about her emergency.
“People will call her a miracle, and she is a miracle, but we’re just helping her process through that,” Erin said. “As far as her device goes, she’ll say occasionally, ‘Mom, I sure wish I didn’t have this power pack,’ which is what we’re calling it.”
But they tell her that the power pack will protect her if her heart needs a boost in the future. The family expects that Vera will experience other episodes and hope the ICD helps. But still they want people to learn CPR and the importance of an AED so they, too, can pitch in when it’s most needed.
“We know that every second, every moment that CPR was not initiated, it increased her risk of neurological damage or non-survival,” Erin said. “Don’t hold back on learning CPR.”
“We were blessed. I would have had tremendous guilt about not being able to the right thing … had it turned out poorly,” he said. “Just take the time to get this foundation. CPR is not a difficult skill but it can change the world.”