'I completely stopped breathing': P.E.I. woman thankful to nurse who saved her life

Laurie Ouellette of Burton, P.E.I., suffered a cardiac arrest in an Ontario Wendy's restaurant in July. An off-duty nurse performed CPR and saved her life.

Burton's Laurie Ouellette suffered a cardiac arrest in a restaurant while visiting family in Ontario

Laurie Ouellette of Burton, P.E.I. (left) hugs Amanda Ferrari, a nurse who saved her life in July after Ouellette suffered a cardiac arrest in a restaurant. (Submitted by Laurie Ouellette)

If not for the quick response of an off-duty nurse and a series of coincidences, a Burton, P.E.I. woman might not be alive today.

Laurie Ouellette, 57, was in Windsor, Ont. in July with her husband visiting family. One day, she went to Wendy's with her husband and mother to get something to eat.

'I started turning blue' 

While they were sitting at a table, Ouellette's head bobbed and her chin touched her chest. 

Then her head hit the table.

"I completely stopped breathing," said Ouellette. "I started turning blue."

Amanda Ferrari (right) received an award from the Red Cross for performing CPR on Laurie Ouellette in July and saving the P.E.I. woman's life. (Submitted by Laurie Ouellette)

Her husband shouted for someone to call 911. 

But fortunately, an off-duty nurse named Amanda Ferrari happened to be in the restaurant. 

Ouellette was placed on the floor, and Ferrari performed Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) to get her breathing started again. Ouellette later learned that she suffered a cardiac arrest due to a blocked artery.

Cardiac arrest 

Emergency medical services arrived at the restaurant about 10-15 minutes after receiving the call. Ouellette is certain that the nurse's intervention saved her life, especially given the low survival rate of people who sustain a cardiac arrest outside of a hospital. 

"There's absolutely no question in our minds that if she hadn't been there, I wouldn't be talking to you today," Ouellette said.

Ouellette spent about a week in the hospital, part of the time on life support. 

Since she has no memory of the incident, her account is informed by others.

Nurse receives Red Cross award 

Ouellette noted that some coincidences had a role to play in her survival. Ferrari was supposed to be at work but switched shifts. Also, the nurse lives on the other side of the city, but just happened to be at the restaurant at that time for a specific purpose. 

Ouellette's husband successfully nominated Ferrari for a Red Cross lifesaver award. On Dec. 5, Ferrari received the award at a ceremony. 

"We sort of have a very special bond [with her], as you might imagine," said Ouellette.

Given the circumstances of her life-saving moment, Ouellette is encouraging everyone to take the time and learn CPR so they can help someone if they are in a similar situation.

With files from Laura Chapin