Something didn’t sound right to Brie Salloum as she was getting ready for school one morning in early April. Weird noises echoed in the upstairs hallway. She compares the sounds to elongated snores, or deep, muffled gurgles.
Brie walked into her parents’ bedroom and found her father, Ray, lying in bed and gasping for breath.
“His teeth were gritted, and he grimaced,” her mother, Lisa Salloum, said. “I could see we were losing him.”
What happened next, medical professionals have told the family, was the beginning of “a miracle.”
Brie Salloum is a senior at Valley High School who is set to graduate Sunday at Drake University’s Knapp Center with 595 of her peers. She is a quiet, reserved 18-year-old who enjoys video games, hanging out with friends, and working at the movie theater at Jordan Creek Town Center.
Salloum puts up with school because “it’s obligatory,” she quips, but admits she enjoys it. She’s taken several advanced placement courses at Valley — AP chemistry, AP physics, AP psychology — you name it.
Her favorite class, Valley’s certified nursing assistant course, is a full-year program that allows students to earn CNA certification by the end of the school year. It’s led by Andrea Thompson, Salloum’s all-time favorite teacher.
“She makes the classroom calm,” Salloum said. “She’s like a mom to me. I really appreciate her. She’s a phenomenal teacher.”
During the CNA program, students — typically those interested in the medical field — are introduced to a variety of health careers.
One section lets students learn about emergency care, like attending to fractures and burns as well as cardiopulmonary resuscitation, also known as CPR. Salloum and her classmates completed the required training this year and are all CPR certified.
‘They’re calling him a miracle’
Ray was lying limp in his bed. Lisa yelled at Brie to dial 911.
She was about to until she saw that her mom was already on the phone. She also saw her mom trying to give her father CPR and realized she wasn’t doing it properly.
She jumped into action.
“I took the pillow out from under his head, had her move him down a little a bit so his head wouldn’t be on the headboard. Then I just started,” she said. “I was crying and yelling. I was scared that I was doing it wrong and he was just gone. Especially with CPR, you don’t get that instant gratification. It was just scary.”
“I just kept telling her to keep going,” her mom said.
Emergency medical services arrived about 3 minutes later, Brie said. Ray was rushed to a local hospital.
He was placed in a medically-induced coma and underwent hypothermia treatment in order to preserve brain activity, Lisa said.
Almost 24 hours after doctors had cooled him, Ray had an arrhythmia, which is the improper beating of the heart.
“They had to give him a defibrillator and shock him,” Brie said.
“He had literally died twice,” Lisa added. “Once, when EMTs (emergency medical technicians) arrived at home and shocked him after what Brie did, and once at the hospital. His doctor told him, ‘It wasn’t your time to go because you’ve died twice and you’ve come back.’
“They’re calling him a miracle.”
Ray remained in the intensive care unit for 10 days.
‘It’s just a complete blur to me’
Ray returned home weeks later, on April 28. He continues to recover and rebuild his strength.
“A lot of it … it’s just a complete blur to me,” Ray said. “I’m slowly starting to remember some of it, little by little. All I remember is waking up in the hospital with a couple of my friends being there — and that’s after I had been there a couple of weeks.”
Doctors told the Salloums that Ray’s cardiac incident was a fluke, and that the chances of it happening again are less than 1 percent.
“Basically, it was all brought on by the flu and pneumonia,” Ray said. “A combination of your body losing fluids and your blood thickening because you lost fluids. Your lungs being congested, putting pressure on the heart. I really don’t know.”
If it weren’t for Brie’s heroic efforts, Ray’s outcome could have been much different. EMTs at the scene and physicians at the hospital complimented her on how she performed CPR.
“She’s very modest and humble,” Lisa said. “How many kids give their dad their life?
“There are not many people in this world — even those that are in the medical field — who can say that they’ve saved someone’s life.”
Brie will attend the University of Iowa in the fall. She’s enrolled as pre-med. She doesn’t yet know if she wants to become a nurse practitioner who works in the emergency room, or if she wants to be a surgeon.
Brie said she is appreciative of the education she received at Valley, especially the CNA program.
“I’m really grateful it’s part of Valley,” Brie said. “I think it’s a good stepping stone for me to get my feet wet in the medical field. Before I was iffy. Now, I know I want to do this.”
Her dad appreciates the program, too.
“I’m grateful. I’m thankful,” he said. “It’s amazing because of the timeline: When she went into the CNA program, when she learned CPR, and when this happened to me. It’s just so all relatively close together.”
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