BALLWIN, Mo. – A high school volleyball coach received the surprise of her lifetime Thursday evening, as she came face-to-face for the first time with the men who saved her life.
Ashleigh Nagel was walking through a Ballwin parking lot with her two children on July 16 when she went into cardiac arrest and collapsed.
Fortunately for Nagel, Dr. Scott Schuessler and his team at Elite Physical Therapy knew just what to do until paramedics arrived.
“I was kneeling down next to her and I was checking her pulse on her arm, checking her neck, and digging on her sternum trying to get some sort of response from her and nothing happened,” Schuessler said.
Schuessler started chest compressions while his team took care of Nagel’s kids.
“The two kids were pretty frantic, yelling, ‘My mom is dying,’” Schuessler said.
Dr. Schuessler had attended 10 CPR training sessions as part of his training.
“I’ve never done CPR on anyone other than in practice,” he said.
But he wouldn’t give up. Schuessler performed CPR on Nagel for nearly 18 minutes until a team from Metro West Fire Protection District arrived.
“We saw that she was unconscious,” said Capt. Jim Moss, Metro West Fire Protection District. “She was not breathing. She had no heartbeat.”
Nagel’s husband, Corey, said it was touch and go for the next two weeks. She was in a medically induced coma and developed acute respiratory distress syndrome. But Nagel fought hard to come home to her family and the things she loves.
“'I’ve missed the volleyball like crazy, the competitiveness of it, and honestly, I miss the kids,” she said.
On Thursday, Nagel’s family was reunited with the men who saved her life.
“I’ll never know how much I truly helped her,” Schuessler said.
But Nagel’s cardiologist praises Schuessler’s quick action.
“He said, ‘You better go find that guy and you better thank him like nobody’s business because he absolutely, 100 percent saved your wife’s life,’” Corey Nagel said. “How can you thank that person enough? You can never be grateful enough to that individual.”
Nagel, who is also a health and physical education teacher at the high school, said while she lives an active lifestyle, she has a family history of heart disease, and there were warning signs she wishes she would have taken more seriously.
Last year, her blood pressure measured high so her doctor told her to keep an eye on it. The doctor thought she might be experiencing anxiety and Nagel was given a medication to help. She was later diagnosed with the flu and complained of tightness in her chest, but that symptom was thought to be pneumonia.
Now on the road to recovery, Nagel is overwhelmed by the support she has received from the community.
"It's very heart touching," she said. "I'm so thankful, so grateful, and it's not just tonight. People have supported from day one: calls, texts, emails, dinners."
The Jefferson High School community is raising money this week that was intended to be given to the Nagel family, but Nagel decided she wants to pay it forward and use that money to establish a scholarship for graduating seniors going into the health field.