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Kan. fire department awards good Samaritans who performed CPR

Topeka Fire Chief Craig Duke said Rena Blomberg and Jessica Jones showed heroism by rendering aid despite COVID-19 risks

Tim Hrenchir
The Topeka Capital-Journal, Kan.

TOPEKA, Kan. — Rena Blomberg says she heard a woman in the background insulting her Dec. 21 as Blomberg gave mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to help save the life of Terri Dodd, who had collapsed and gone into cardiac arrest at a west Topeka discount store.

“What’s wrong with that ignorant woman?” Blomberg recalled that woman as saying. “This is COVID. Why would she be doing that?”

But Blomberg told reporters Wednesday that she just kept on going, “because this is a life.”

The Safe Streets Coalition during a Zoom meeting Wednesday honored Blomberg, of Tecumseh, and Jessica Jones, of Wakarusa, as Champions of Character for teaming up to use CPR to save Dodd’s life.

Dodd was among those present as the award was presented by Topeka fire Chief Craig Duke in a ceremony at Topeka Fire Department headquarters.

“Other bystanders were telling them not to do ventilations because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but they continued,” Duke said. “These heroes did not let the fear of contracting COVID-19 stop them from rendering aid to someone they did not even know.”

Jones told reporters afterward that the situation illustrated the importance of learning CPR.

“It just goes to show you never know when you’re going to be in the right place at the right time,” she said. “And taking a CPR class is really like an afternoon of your day, and anybody can do it. It’s super easy. You never know when you can make a huge difference in somebody’s life. Or a whole family’s life, in this case.”

Dodd, who’d experienced previous heart problems, said physicians told her Blomberg and Jones saved her life after she collapsed while shopping with her sister the afternoon of Dec. 21 at Five Below, 1740 S.W. Wanamaker Road.

She expressed “eternal gratitude” to Blomberg and Jones, saying they’d given her a second chance at life.

Jones, a licensed practical nurse who works as a geriatric nurse at Topeka’s Brewster Place, said she’d been looking for Christmas presents for her three children while shopping with a friend.

“I’ve also had other emergency situations that I’ve had to do the same thing and was also successful in those,” she said. “So God’s got me here for a reason, I guess, and it’s apparently to do really good CPR.”

Blomberg, who has held past jobs that required her to know CPR, said she was shopping with her 50-year-old daughter and two grandchildren, ages 28 and 30, when Dodd collapsed nearby.

Blomberg quickly determined Dodd wasn’t breathing.

Jones then joined in, administering chest compressions while Blomberg gave mouth-to-mouth and a store clerk called 911.

Dodd was taken by ambulance to a Topeka hospital. It wasn’t until later that Blomberg and Jones learned she had survived.

Blomberg and Jones seemed happy to meet Dodd in person at Wednesday’s event.

“To see her in her natural color is pretty awesome,” Jones said.

Blomberg gave Dodd a necklace, which said “Life is a celebration” on front and “Get the party started” on back.

Blomberg and Jones said they’d both found out they had already all been connected to Dodd in one way or another through relatives and friends.

Dodd said she planned to have Blomberg and Jones over to her house later that day.

Topeka Fire Marshal Todd Harrison said Wednesday the Topeka Fire Department was working with the National Fire Protection Association on a community risk reduction program that would enable the department “to start taking data and accumulating it to where we can start figuring out where some of the higher risks are within our city.”

The program would help the city make better decisions on where to put fire stations while also accumulating data aimed at taking steps that include enabling the city to “make sure that we’re getting good training as far as good CPR,” Harrison said.


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