DECATUR -- July 11 began like any other summer day for 16-year-old Hannah Bean. She got up, attended an acting summer camp, posted photos to Facebook and was getting ready for dinner when she suddenly collapsed.
Bean doesn’t remember any of it. She just remembers waking up in the hospital, lucky to be alive.
Bean is alive because of the expertise of a 911 operator, firefighters and paramedics who responded to the emergency, and doctors at Decatur Memorial Hospital and St. Louis Children’s Hospital who cared for her after. But there was another, more unlikely hero -- Hannah’s stepdad Chris Featherstone, who performed CPR until the paramedics arrived.
Just three months since the incident, Hannah, Chris Featherstone and Hannah’s mom Liz Featherstone will be participating in the Macon County Heart Walk on Saturday, Oct. 22. Hannah’s team name is #HBStrong.
“We wanted to do this to support Hannah, and also to raise awareness of heart disease, sudden cardiac arrest and CPR,” Liz said. “It’s important for people to know that they can save a life by doing compressions.”
Less than a week after Hannah was released from the hospital, the entire family was trained in CPR by a friend who works at the Macon County Jail. But other than what they’d seen in TV and movies, no one in the family had any previous experience with CPR on the day Hannah collapsed.
Hannah had no previous health issues and is active in theater and music. On July 11, she was feeling particularly tired after attending Decatur Park District's Best of Summer Stock (BOSS) youth theater program and went to her room to take a nap. Chris had awakened Hannah so she could get ready to go to dinner.
A couple minutes later, Chris heard what sounded like something falling in Hannah’s room. He went with Hannah’s older sister Erica to check on her and she was on the ground near the chair she sat in to do her makeup and hair.
“We went in to try to get her to respond, but she didn’t,” Chris said. “She was breathing awkward -- I thought maybe she’d fallen and punctured a lung. We didn’t know what to do, so we called 911.”
The 911 operator instructed Chris to lay Hannah on her back and perform CPR.
“She had to walk me through every step,” Chris said. “You see it on TV and think, no big deal. But when you actually have to do it, it’s a whole different story. It all felt like it was happening in slow-motion.”
The 911 operator explained where Chris should place his hands and how to do the compressions. He put the phone on speaker and performed CPR while listening to the operator’s instructions. Chris estimated he’d finished between 20 and 30 compressions when firemen arrived and took over.
“The doctors told her they believe Chris getting the compressions started is what saved her life,” Liz said.
Soon after firemen arrived, the paramedics got there and determined Hannah was in cardiac arrest. They gave her a shock with a defibrillator, then rushed her to DMH. Soon after, she was airlifted to St. Louis.
Liz was at the St. Louis airport, arriving there after a business trip to Baltimore, when she got the call from Chris at around 6:15 p.m. Liz had made Chris promise he’d “take good care of the kids so I could go on the trip.” It was with that thought in mind when Chris called Liz.
“The firefighters and the paramedics were still here, and I came out to the kitchen, called her and tried to fill her in with as much information as I could,” Chris said. “That’s not something you think you’re going to have to call and tell someone: ‘You put me in charge of your child and now they’ve collapsed and we’re performing CPR on her.’”
Hannah was in the hospital for two weeks and surgery was performed to implant a defibrillator. She only remembers the last three days -- post-surgery. She was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, though Long QT syndrome is also a possibility.
“It’s a complicated case,” Liz said. “Right now they’re treating both and trying to figure out which is the more dominant problem.”
Hannah was weak and constantly tired after returning home. But she’s feeling better and has recently returned to school at MacArthur.
“I am getting back to going to school the whole day, but that isn’t easy,” Hannah said. “I’m trying to get back to the things I love to do, like singing in the choir, but I’m sick a lot from the medicines and I’m tired all the time. I take naps twice a day. But I’d rather be tired than not alive.”
While she’s still fighting to get back to the life she wants, Hannah’s prognosis is good.
“Long term, she should be able to live a long life like any of the rest of us,” Liz said.
And for the rest of that life, Hannah knows she can count on Chris to respond in a life or death situation.
“I’ve always known he was an amazing stepdad and always been great to all of the kids here,” Hannah said. “But something like that … it shows he cares immensely for me. It’s made our relationship even stronger.”