Cardiac RN Brings Life Saving Resources to Local Grocery Stores
When a person collapsed in the parking lot of King Soopers, a local grocery store, Kelly Royster, Chest Pain Coordinator, at Lutheran Medical Center, sprang into action.
“I was shopping for my daughter’s birthday, when they began paging overhead asking for assistance,” Royster recalled. “When they asked for someone who knew CPR, I raced to the front of the store, leaving my full grocery cart in the aisle.” Adrenaline pumping, Royster followed shouts and points to find an individual in cardiac arrest in the parking lot.
In the heat of August and squeezed tightly between the parked cars, she and two other healthcare workers began performing CPR. In between rhythmic compressions, the team asked the gathering crowd to locate an Automated External Defibrillator (AED). After an unsuccessful search within the grocery store, one was located in a nearby hardware store and applied.
Guided by the AED, CPR continued for 15 minutes until EMS arrived. Once EMS drove off with the patient, Royster allowed the gravity of the event to sink in. “I’ve provided first aid outside of the clinical setting before, but never CPR,” Royster said. “My knees were bloody and my back was very sore, but I still needed to get my party supplies. So I went back in to find my cart and finish grocery shopping.”
It was then that she was presented with an opportunity. “A few people came up to me and said, ‘Hey, if I knew CPR, I would have helped,’ and I realized I could extend my expertise to help the staff learn CPR and how to use AEDs.”
Partnering With the Community to Save Lives
Royster, who is a certified CPR instructor and a spokesperson for the American Heart Association, decided to partner with Arvada Fire and EMS Chief Vic Stehl to bring education to the King Soopers staff. Through the collective efforts of the local fire department and Royster, more than 25 King Soopers employees have already been taught to do hands-only CPR and how to use an AED.
Knowing that a fast response and timely delivery of CPR can increase chances of survival by 30%, Royster also started exploring ways to get AEDs for the grocery stores. In partnership our Community Benefit team, Royster and SCL Health have ordered eight AEDs to donate to surrounding King Soopers stores. Royster and Arvada Fire will also continue providing CPR and AED training to the grocery store personnel.
“Kelly's experience illustrates how communities identify needs,” said Chuck Ault, Regional Director, Community Health Improvement. “Without this happening, we would have never known that King Soopers lacked AEDs. Community Benefit at LMC had an opportunity to respond and fill this gap with a critical piece of equipment and the training needed for it to save lives in the future."
“I think it really hit home because it was MY King Soopers; it is where I shop,” Royster reflected. “This could have been my family, my neighbor.”
And just a few years ago, it very well could have been Royster.
A Significant Cardiac History Evolves Into Purpose and Passion
“I was born with a bicuspid aortic valve -- a congenital heart defect, and I have lived with it without incident for almost my whole life,” Royster shared. Asymptomatic and athletic, she and her best friend were well into training for an upcoming marathon almost exactly seven years ago.
Royster noticed that her friend, Mary, a strong runner, was looking particularly tired one day. Her friend brushed it off as general parenting stress and a lack of a good night's sleep. That night, she went into cardiac arrest and died. “Her son found her, and he did the right thing and got the neighbor, but the neighbor was too afraid to intervene or even touch Mary,” Royster said, reiterating how important CPR education is.
“After that, I was bound and determined to run the marathon in Mary’s honor,” she said. “My husband and my mother both implored me to get my own heart checked out - just to be extra sure.” About two weeks out from the race, Royster visited her cardiologist and kept on training while she awaited her echocardiogram results. “About a week later they called me and scheduled me for open heart surgery,” she said.
Royster’s heart valve was so calcified that doctors assured her that she never would have crossed the finish line.
Now, equipped with a mechanical heart valve and an unquenchable passion for cardiac nursing, Royster feels she is doing exactly what she needs to be doing. “This is where my heart is,” she said. “I’ve experienced a lot of cardiac events, and I know we can prevent a lot of them.”
“I believe God has me here for a reason, and if I can make a change or tell a story that inspires someone to listen to their body, take the time to get a symptom checked out, or learn how to help someone in distress, then I’m going to do it.”