Judy Karaky answered karma’s call with flour on her hands.
Karaky, The Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel general manager, was helping plate desserts for a large luncheon recently when word came of an emergency.
A guest had suffered a heart attack in the lobby.
Karaky rushed to the scene.
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On the floor lay an 86-year-old man. He wasn’t breathing. Staff members Kerry Kassab, the hotel executive director, and Liz Rupert, a banquet server, were performing CPR on him.
Karaky knew what to do. All her grief and work had been for such a moment.
In 2000, her 15-year-old cousin, Greg Moyer, died from cardiac arrest during halfti
me of his basketball game. It took a while for an ambulance to reach his rural high school in Shawnee.
He might have lived — if only an automated electronic defibrillator, or AED, had been available.
Afterward, Karaky joined her uncle and aunt in a campaign to install AEDs in public areas throughout Pennsylvania. Working for Penn State Hospitality Services, Karaky helped convince the university in 2001 to buy two AEDs for The Penn Stater and one for the Nittany Lion Inn.
Penn State Hospitality Services also worked with the university to draft a standard AED policy, and had 40 staff members undergo CPR/AED training.
One of the AEDs revived a Penn Stater employee, Terry Confer, in 2002 after he fell unconscious at work.
Twelve years later, another life was saved.
As her colleagues frantically worked, Karaky pulled out a nearby AED unit. Despite her training, she fumbled a bit ripping open the package to get the pads.
“I think a lot of that is nerves,” she said. “You just want to get it right.”
Settling down, she started the correct procedure. The rescuers applied the AED pads, activated the monitor, cleared everyone from the man and administered a shock.
After more CPR for a few minutes, they sent another jolt.
“By this time, after the second shock, he started to breathe on his own,” Karaky said. “That’s the first thing we noticed. His chest was rising and falling.”
Kassab and Rupert continued CPR until EMTs took over. They responded as quickly as possible, though it was hard to tell for the trio of good Samaritans.
“It seems like you’re there for hours,” Karaky said. “The time goes very slowly.”
While they worked, other staff members pitched in. One fetched a screen to shield the man from view. Karaky said she’s proud of everyone, none more than Kassab and Rupert, who remembered their training and acted decisively.
“I look at that whole situation, and everybody there was the right people at the right time,” Karaky said.
That night, the hospital called. The guest was awake and doing well, far from the brink he teetered on hours before.
“All of us felt really good,” Karaky said.
Before the incident, she had thought that Confer’s rescue had validated her uncle’s and aunt’s continuing crusade for AEDs. Now, thanks in part to a passion born from sorrow, another tragedy had been averted.
Her cousin’s legacy had grown by one more life.
She’s still an advocate for AEDs, for people taking American Red Cross classes and other training that includes instruction on the devices.
“It’s so sim
ple to use,” Karaky said. “You never know where you might be able to jump in and help.”