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HEROISM PERSONIFIED: Civilians awarded for saving Novi woman’s life

 HEROISM PERSONIFIED: Civilians awarded for saving Novi woman’s life

Cristal Mouele hugs Dr. Latisha Carter, who administered CPR for over five minutes after Mouele suffered cardiac arrest at the University of Michigan Northville Health Center April 20.

If not for a perfect blend of heroism, razor-sharp training and good fortune, Cristal Mouele would not have been standing just inside the front entrance of the Northville Township Hall Thursday night, reflecting on the morning of April 20, the day her life nearly ended.

Mouele, a medical assistant based at the University of Michigan Northville Health Center, suffered a full cardiac arrest event that day at work.

She survived because of the quick actions of her co-workers and the treatment she received from Northville Township first-responders once they arrived at the health facility to treat Mouele and transport her to Trinity Health Livonia Hospital.

Mouele was at township headquarters Thursday to take part in a ceremony to present civilian life-saving awards to the co-workers who saved her.

‘So grateful’

“I am so grateful to everyone who helped give me a second chance at life,” Mouele said. “I’ve learned that only one in 10 people who experience cardiac arrest like I did survive.

Cristal Mouele stands with all of the coworkers and first responders who played a role in her survival.
Cristal Mouele stands with all of the coworkers and first responders who played a role in her survival

“The day before this happened, I had the day off, so I was home alone. I wouldn’t have survived. So, do I appreciate even the little things more these days? Absolutely.”

In January 2022, following a fainting spell, Mouele was diagnosed with Atrial fibrillation (A-fib), an irregular and often very rapid heart rhythm (arrhythmia) that can lead to blood clots in the heart. Doctors implanted a heart monitor in her chest days later.

“When I visited the doctor one year later (this past January), the device had recorded zero activity; there had been no episodes, which was great news,” Mouele said.

April 20, 2023, started routinely for Mouele before she suffered a bout of light-headedness.

“I sat down in a chair in the office I was working in and that was it — that’s all I remembered until waking up in the hospital,” she said.

Terrific teamwork

The chain of teamwork that saved Mouele’s life was initiated by U-M Dr. Latisha Carter, a general pediatrician.

Cristal Mouele hugs coworker Kuljeet Mahal
Cristal Mouele hugs coworker Kuljeet Mahal

“I was sitting in my office, which was just a few feet from the office Cristal was using that day,” Dr. Carter recounted. “I saw one of our nurses hurriedly run past my office, so I got up to see what was going on.

“When I got to Cristal’s office, a nurse was positioning her on the floor. I did a sternal rub to see if I could get a response, but I didn’t, so I immediately started CPR.”

In addition to administering CPR to their stricken colleague, the health center’s personnel used an automated external defibrillator (AED), started an IV and administered cardiac medication prior to the arrival Northville Township first-responders.

Prepared for emergencies

For five-plus minutes, Dr. Carter administered cardiopulmonary resuscitation on Mouele before being relieved by a colleague.

“Doing CPR is very exhausting — both mentally and physically,” Dr. Carter said. “You’re using muscles you typically don’t use every day.”

Once township police officers arrived, they performed CPR. Township firefighter/paramedics then took over care, providing advanced life support.

Mouele was defibrillated five times and had three rounds of cardiac medications administered before she finally regained a pulse.

Pictured from left are Northville Township Fire Chief Brent Siegel, Shaina Woodmansee, Cristal Mouele and Dr. Latisha Carter.
Pictured from left are Northville Township Fire Chief Brent Siegel Shaina Woodmansee Cristal Mouele and Dr Latisha Carter

Minutes later — while en route to the hospital — she began breathing on her own and regained consciousness.

Mouele has been released from the hospital and is on her way to a remarkable recovery.

Although still working to regain 100% of her pre-cardiac arrest stamina, she routinely rides a stationary bike in her Novi home and is looking forward to Aug. 21, the day she is scheduled to return to work.

“The first day I returned to the office to see my co-workers again after my cardiac arrest was a very, very emotional day,” Mouele said. “More than anything, I wanted them to see how well I was doing because the last time they had seen me I was unconscious and being stretchered out of the building.”

Way above average

Not only were Mouele’s odds of survival increased because the event occurred in a health center, it helped immensely that it happened in Northville Township, whose fire department’s advanced life support program’s rate of success in resuscitating cardiac arrest victims — with no neurological deficits — is three times the state and national averages.

“Several years ago, we started to analyze what worked well and what did not,” said Fire Chief Brent Siegel, who presented the civilian life-saving awards Thursday night. “We reviewed every single case, adapted and improved.

“We’ve made it a point to educate the public in early recognition, and educated our emergency medical dispatchers in how to provide instructions to 9-1-1 callers before first-responders arrive.”

The Township has equipped all of its police officers with AED’s, added Siegel, who has attended the Seattle Resuscitation Academy to learn high-performance CPR  practices.

“Our staff trains non-stop on this, which is one big reason why people like Ms. Mouele are able to survive and lead a normal quality of life.”

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Ed Wright

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