Lifesaving lesson: Akron teacher uses CPR training to help save Tallmadge neighbor

Sean McDonnell
Akron Beacon Journal
Clarissa Gagne, a second-grade teacher for Akron Public Schools, helped save a Tallmadge neighbor by performing CPR.

When she was pregnant with her daughter, Clarissa Gagne learned CPR as part of her parenting classes. 

Eight years later, her local fire department said those classes helped save her neighbor's life. 

“It’s one of those lessons you learn and you pray you never have to use,” Gagne said. “But I was grateful I remembered it.”

That lesson was needed last week when Gagne and others helped a neighbor who had collapsed in front of them.

Gagne, a second-grade teacher at Betty Jane Community Learning Center in Akron, was working from her Tallmadge home on Thursday when she took her puppy out during her break.

Gagne saw a neighbor fall in her front yard. She and several neighbors rushed to help.

“It was really a whole neighborhood event,” she said. “Everybody played a role in helping her.”

One person called 911, while another watched the woman’s family. A third neighbor made sure Gagne’s puppy didn’t run off in the commotion.

Gagne started CPR after she couldn’t feel her neighbor's pulse and noticed the woman was turning blue and not breathing regularly.

Tallmadge Deputy Fire Chief Ben Stasik said that action could have been lifesaving. 

“In a time that somebody’s in need of CPR, it can truly make all the difference,” Stasik said.

Tallmadge paramedics responded in about three to four minutes. Stasik said it’s a fast response time, but even the fastest response could leave someone in need for minutes.

Stasik explained that CPR is part of the chain of survival. Each link in the chain — the 911 caller, the dispatcher, the paramedic, the hospital worker — holds it together.

A missing link could mean minutes without breathing or without blood flow, which can cause a lot of harm to a patient. A neighbor, family member or even a stranger knowing CPR can deliver care in a crucial time.

“Without a link, you don't have your chain,” Stasik said. “It can truly make a lifesaving difference.”

Gagne said her neighbor is doing well. To respect the neighbor's privacy, Gagne didn’t talk about what caused the collapse. 

The whole experience was humbling, and put the need for CPR training into perspective, Gagne said.

“You see it on TV and think ‘I can do that,’ but when it actually happens, it's a whole different feeling,” she said.

Stasik said there’s been a large national push to train people in CPR and first aid. He said knowing how to administer CPR and how to stop bleeding are lifesaving skills needed in the community. 

“A neighbor that’s willing to take the time and step up when someone's in need, makes a community resilient,” Stasik said. “It's neighbors like that that you truly want.”

Reach reporter Sean McDonnell at 330-996-3186 or