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Pharmacist credited with saving woman in Hempfield

| Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013, 12:27 a.m.
Eastgate Giant Eagle Pharmacy Team Leader John Cherry of Murrysville performed CPR on an unresponsive woman in the store's parking lot on Monday, Jan. 14, 2013. Guy Wathen | Tribune-Review

When John Cherry saw the unconscious woman in her car on Monday afternoon, he initially thought she was dead.

“And then I saw her breathe,” Cherry, 35, of Murrysville said. “And she was breathing once every maybe 10 seconds.”

So Cherry, the pharmacy team leader at the Giant Eagle at Eastgate Shopping Plaza in Hempfield, began performing CPR on the woman in the store's parking lot.

His actions likely saved her life.

“It was definitely one of the most humbling experiences of my life,” he said.

Cherry was working his shift at the pharmacy when a store manager ran back looking for anyone with medical training.

As a pharmacist, Cherry is trained in CPR.

He ran out to the parking lot and found the woman, who is a store employee, in her vehicle. Officials did not release the woman's name.

A passer-by who said he was a former EMT helped Cherry get the woman onto the ground while store employees called 911 and retrieved the automated external defibrillator.

Cherry said he did chest compressions for eight minutes and shocked the woman with the AED three times before paramedics arrived.

“Right about the time I was about to pass out was when the professionals got there and they took over,” Cherry said.

“It was quite an emotional ride there,” he said.

The woman was first taken to Excela Health Westmoreland Hospital in Greensburg and then flown to UPMC Presbyterian in Pittsburgh, where she underwent heart surgery on Tuesday, Cherry said.

A family member stopped at the pharmacy to let Cherry and the other employees know that she was in stable condition, and to pass along thanks and a message from the woman's doctors.

“They said she was potentially clinically dead,” Cherry said. “CPR saved her life, so I was quite thankful to hear that. I'm mostly just really happy that I could help.”

He was also glad the store had an AED, which the majority of Giant Eagle stores have in place.

“As a company we're certainly grateful to John and the store team members and others who acted quickly and came to her aid,” Giant Eagle spokesman Dick Roberts said. “They did use an AED as well, so obviously that made a difference.”

Cherry said he believes his CPR training — which he used for the first time — definitely helped as well.

“After my experience, I think everyone should have the training,” he said. “(I thought) I'm learning all this stuff and I'll probably never have to use it, and then boom.”

Jennifer Reeger is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6155 or jreeger@tribweb.com.

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