Lifesaving Employees Recognized

Coordinated response gave Joanne Witting best chance for good outcome after heart attack

Joanne Witting, right, expresses her appreciation during a Community Hero recognition ceremony in June at the West Broadway Walmart in Columbia.
Joanne Witting, right, expresses her appreciation during a Community Hero recognition ceremony in June at the West Broadway Walmart in Columbia. A coordinated response by community members, Walmart employees and others helped give Witting the best chance for a good outcome after she had a heart attack in the store.

For Joanne Witting, 76, visiting the West Broadway Walmart in Columbia will never be the same after her visit on May 11. On that day, she experienced a heart attack.

Witting’s heart attack sent bystanders and employees into a flurry of action. A fellow shopper, Bob Crockett, raced to get help. He caught the attention of Jason Puryear, an employee of Nauser Beverage, who sought help from Walmart employees. Christopher Buckner was the first employee to arrive in the area and called 911. Walmart manager Dawn Moritz began CPR, and Mason Miner continued chest compressions and followed instructions given by the 911 dispatcher.

Other employees quickly found more ways to help. Justin Basham helped assess Witting’s vital signs and then began contacting family members listed in her phone. Jessica Shinn ran for supplies. Pharmacist Noah Alexander checked Witting’s belongings for medication or other hints that might help employees determine what was happening. Diane Phillips organized a human shield to protect Witting and allow EMS crews quicker access. Michael Savage waited at the front door and escorted the Columbia Fire Department responders and MU Health Care paramedics to the right spot.

“For that many people to be engaged in CPR and moving a patient out of the facility is not something you normally see,” said Daryn Stark, ambulance supervisor at University Hospital. “They made it look flawless and seamless.”

The coordinated response by community members and employees gave Witting the best chance for a good outcome, and their actions were honored in a ceremony at the store on June 27, where 20 people received community hero recognition from MU Health Care for their roles in helping save Witting. Coincidentally, Witting worked for MU Health Care for 20 years, and Crockett also previously worked at MU Health Care.

In addition to the honorees previously mentioned, 10 Walmart employees were honored for acting as a shield to offer Witting privacy. Those employees are Mariah Bergemann, Robert Coepp, Lois Marston, Ron Medland, Jenny Nichols, James Rowland, Bobbi Russow, David Schroeder, Taylor Thoenen and Stacy Wallingford.

Daniel Lopez, EMT, was the lead paramedic with the ambulance that responded to Witting’s emergency. He was impressed at the number of people who chose to help.

“Without their action, I can almost guarantee the outcome would have been drastically different,” Lopez said. “They weren’t required to take action, but they chose to, and because of that, a life was saved."