Penn Stater staff springs to action to save a life

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Have you ever thought about what you would do if someone near you suffered a heart attack? Would you spring into action starting CPR or calling 911? For a few staff members at The Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel, those questions now have answers and resulted in a life saved.

On Jan. 12, The Penn Stater was welcoming a large group for the Penn State women’s volleyball team’s annual banquet. While the ballroom filled up, staff attended to guest needs and prepared plates for service in the kitchen, among many other duties.

Judy Karaky, general manager of The Penn Stater, was in the kitchen helping plate salads and desserts when she got a call from executive housekeeper Kerry Kassab that she was needed in the main lobby immediately. Once Karaky arrived, she joined Kassab and Liz Rupert, a banquet server, who had already jumped in to help a male guest who had suffered from sudden cardiac arrest.

“I grabbed the AED (automated external defibrillator) and got it hooked up,” said Karaky. “Kerry and Liz were both next to the gentleman performing CPR.”

According to Karaky, the AED is easy to use. It is designed to tell you when to administer CPR, when to pause and when to shock. While Karaky had been trained on the AED, she had never used one in a real-life trauma situation. Despite being nervous, Karaky didn’t let her nervousness prevent her from doing what she needed to do.

“You have this initial fear and anxiety,” explained Karaky. “You’re trying to go fast and open all the packages for pads and the mouth guard. I was probably a little flustered, but once it was hooked up and on, I felt better. Anything from then on the machine helps you do.”

Once the machine was going, Karaky said she turned into a coach. “I was just trying to communicate and keep everyone going,” Karaky explains. “Kerry and Liz did great. I was impressed with both of them and think they had far harder jobs than I did.”

Karaky’s experience with AEDs isn’t just training. After losing a young cousin years ago when having easy access to an AED around wasn’t as common, her aunt and uncle made it their mission to pass legislation requiring the life-saving machines in public places. Jim Purdum, general manager for Penn State Hospitality, and Karaky’s uncle and father helped write the policy for AEDs at Penn State. Today, AEDs are common in public places and can be found in many buildings on Penn State’s campus.

Karaky can’t stress enough the importance of being trained to do CPR and operate an AED. “To me it means an average person can jump in and save someone’s life,” said Karaky. “That’s really significant. It’s like giving blood. It’s something simple you can do, but it’s really important.”

Thanks to the quick action of Karaky, Kassab, Rupert and other staff at The Penn Stater, the gentleman was able to begin breathing on his own before being taken away in an ambulance. Later that evening, a doctor called to let them know the gentleman was conscious and communicating. “We were relieved,” said Karaky. “We were proud to know we were able to respond in a moment of crisis. We have challenges all the time, but not ones involving life or death. When it applies to human life, it’s a good feeling.”

Karaky did not expect any recognition, but said she did have a purpose for speaking out about the incident. “The point in talking about it was to reinforce the importance of having AEDs in public places, learning how to use them and how to do CPR. We have a great staff here that’s ready to serve. Our goal is always to do our job, to do it the best we can and show how much we care about those here with us.”

Last Updated February 04, 2014