Cleveland, OH,
14:48 PM

MetroHealth Nurses Provide Life Saving CPR and "Thump" to 211 Navigator

Donna Lanier didn’t see it coming. She didn’t feel it either. But the thump she took to the chest was so strong and so fierce it knocked the life right back into her. That thump came from Kathleen Rizer, RN, director of nursing services, an experienced cardiac nurse who has 40 years of nursing under her belt.

Donna and Kathleen both agree the stars were in alignment the day Donna collapsed at her desk outside Kathleen’s office on main campus. “I cover Cleveland Heights, Beachwood and many departments on Main Campus,” says Kathleen. “I’m in and out. I just happened to be here that day.”

“She’s a very busy lady,” adds Donna. “A lot of the time, she’s not there. For me to have the director of cardiac nursing help me with all of her experience and knowledge – you couldn’t get any better than that.”Kathleen was also expecting company that morning. She was hosting a meeting with Nurse Managers Kumarie Singh and Laurel Stevens. Both were able to assist in Donna’s care. Kumarie shared CPR duties with Kathleen, while Laurel called for Code Blue backup.

After failed attempts to bring Donna back with CPR, Kathleen’s experience led her to believe Donna was having a life-threatening heart rhythm event. With no defibrillator immediately available, Kathleen reverted to a procedure she learned early in her nursing career called the precordial thump.

The precordial thump is a forceful contact of a fist to the chest, which simulates a “shock” to assist the heart back into rhythm. Kathleen was aware the thump was a long shot and is no longer a recommended practice by the American Heart Association due to its low success rate. But she went for it anyway. And in this case, it worked.

Any other day and any other time could have easily proven fatal for Donna, who is a 211 navigation specialist for United Way. She gets to work early and is usually alone in her office until about 8:30 a.m.

“I could have been gone and not ever come back,” says Donna. “My God made sure there were people around me that could help me.”

Donna doesn’t recall the heroic efforts that were taken to revive her that morning, but she clearly remembers the pain she endured before she passed out. “It felt like someone hit me in the head with a sledgehammer,” she says. “And then I lost my vision.”

She also remembers waking up – confused, nauseous, hot and sweating.

“I was laying on the floor and had all of these people around me,” she says. “I couldn’t understand why they were bothering me.”

According to Kathleen, Donna had experienced a spontaneous return of circulation and alertness as a result of CPR. By the time she was revived, the Code Blue team had arrived and quickly escorted her to the emergency department where she experienced two more episodes.

Donna was diagnosed with Prolonged QT Syndrome, a condition that causes an abnormal heartbeat associated with an increased risk of sudden death. She now has an ICD defibrillator, which is capable of correcting life-threatening cardiac arrhythmias.

Donna is appreciative of the care she received at MetroHealth, “No one can ever tell me anything bad about MetroHealth,” she says. “As busy as the emergency department was, they were fantastic. They found me a room and were working on me immediately.”

As for Kathleen Rizer, Donna calls her “a force to be reckoned with.”“There was no time lost from the time I passed out to the time she helped me. If it would have been any longer, I may not have come back,” she says. “I am grateful.”To learn more about arrhythmias and heart rhythm disorders, visit

According to the American Heart Association, there are approximately 10,000 cardiac arrests annually in the workplace. Visit the American Heart Association web site to learn how to start a heart using an automated external defibrillator (AED) and CPR.

About the MetroHealth System

Founded in 1837, MetroHealth is leading the way to a healthier you and a healthier community through service, teaching, discovery, and teamwork. Cuyahoga County’s public, safety-net hospital system, MetroHealth meets people where they are, providing care through five hospitals, four emergency departments and more than 20 health centers. Each day, our nearly 9,000 employees focus on providing our community with equitable healthcare — through patient-focused research, access to care, and support services — that seeks to eradicate health disparities rooted in systematic barriers. For more information, visit