Dave Willenborg doesn’t remember anything about March 6, 2013 — the day he suffered a massive heart attack and collapsed in St. Anthony’s Memorial Hospital parking lot.
But the Sigel resident refuses to forget the woman who saved his life with cardiopulmonary resuscitation that day.
Willenborg got a chance to publicly thank the woman his daughter called “our angel” at the 32nd annual Health Occupations class celebration. In a surprise presentation at the end of the celebration, Willenborg and adult children Dawn and Jonathan presented Health Oc teacher Jo Ellen Armstrong with flowers for her quick work in the parking lot on that March day.
Both Dawn Dunston and Jonathan Willenborg recognize that their father wouldn’t be alive without Armstrong being in the right place at the right time — with the right skills gained from 25 years in nursing.
“She’s our angel,” Dunston said. “We wouldn’t have Dad anymore if it wasn’t for her. There aren’t enough ways we can thank her for that.”
“She means the world to us,” Jonathan Willenborg added. “My kids have a grandpa because of her skill.”
Armstrong said she was leaving the Health Oc classroom at the hospital when she saw Willenborg lying in the parking lot. She added that the situation didn’t look good when she reached the stricken man.
“He was completely blue,” she said. “He wasn’t breathing and there wasn’t any pulse.”
In the meantime, hospital emergency room staff were alerted to the situation and came out to assist. By that time, Willenborg was breathing again.
But he wasn’t out of the woods. He was immediately flown to St. John’s Hospital in Springfield, where he spent three weeks in a coma. He was released April 3 to spend several more days at Lakeland Health & Rehabilitation Center in Effingham before coming home April 10.
Willenborg is a supervisor at Anamet Electric in Mattoon, but isn’t sure when he will return to work, though he does have a check-up at the end of the month.
Willenborg said before the celebration Tuesday he was a little nervous.
“I’m not used to this type of stuff,” he said. “Any gift that we give her is not going to be adequate.”
Armstrong, who grew up as Jo Ellen Dust in the Green Creek community north of Effingham, said she kept up with Willenborg’s progress through his sister. She said March 6 was the first time she’d ever performed CPR in public on someone she didn’t know.
“I was on an adrenaline rush all day after it happened,” she said.
Armstrong said she was able to use the event as a teaching moment for three Health Oc students.
“We had three students in the ER on rotation, so they were able to see how a life is saved,” she said.
Armstrong graduated from Teutopolis High School. She received her LPN training at Lake Land College, before attending Olney Central College for her RN training.
A nurse for 25 years, Armstrong is completing her 17th year as one of the three Health Oc instructors.
Bill Grimes can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 132, or email@example.com.