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Pocatello teacher meets the man who saved her life on the side of a busy interstate

Pocatello

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Melanie Parrish Anderson embraces Craig Lathen, the man first responders credit for saving her life on the side of a busy interstate. | Eric Grossarth, EastIdahoNews.com

POCATELLO — Driving 80 miles per hour down the interstate is not the ideal time to go into cardiac arrest.

But that’s exactly what happened when Melanie Parrish Anderson’s heart began to flutter on June 22, causing her to pass out on Interstate 84 near Kimberley.

Luckily for Anderson, 31-year-old Craig Lathen, a registered nurse, jumped into action and performed CPR before first responders arrived. Anderson has no memory of what happened, but Friday the 58-year-old met the man responsible for saving her life.

“I don’t actually recognize you,” Anderson said as she embraced Lathen at Portneuf Medical Center. “I was a little out.”

Anderson’s daughter, Kimberley Miller, recalled the blue Subaru Impreza veering off the road as her mom passed out. With the cruise control on, Miller reflexively grabbed the wheel, crossed the left lane and barreled over the median into oncoming traffic in an effort to stop the car. Without touching the brakes, the car came to a stop with Anderson’s daughter and grandchildren inside.

The only damage to the vehicle was to the front and rear bumpers. Miraculously everyone inside was okay.

Courtesy photo

“I turned to my mom and she was unconscious. I just started screaming for help,” Miller said. “It’s a story I wouldn’t believe unless it happened to me.”

With Anderson slumped over the steering wheel, Lathen happened to be driving around the corner at just the right time. He got out of his vehicle, approached Anderson’s car and told Miller he is a nurse. He and two other men then pulled Anderson out of the car. He called 911 and just as he hung up, Anderson’s heart stopped. Without hesitation, Lathen’s training kicked in and he began performing chest compression.

“I was down long enough that if he had not started compressions, I would have not recovered,” Anderson said. “He really, really is a hero. It’s just amazing to me … I can’t even tell you how grateful I am for this man.”

First responders arrived and continued to provide CPR and other life-saving care. With Anderson’s heart beating after shocks from a defibrillator, paramedics loaded her into an ambulance and rushed her to St. Luke’s Magic Valley Medical Center. Anderson remained unconscious but remembers being loaded onto a medical airplane to the University of Utah Hospital.

Melanie Parrish Anderson being loaded into a medical airplane to travel to Salt Lake City for treatment following an incident on an Idaho highway. | Courtesy Kimberley Miller

Doctors in Salt Lake City placed a defibrillator in Anderson’s chest and she remained in the hospital for several days.

As she began to recover, she wondered who the man was who stopped and saved her life.

“No one knew who he was. Apparently, there was some miscommunication about who you gave your name to,” Anderson told Lathen Friday. “I kept saying, ‘I want to find him. Who is he? He saved my life.'”

Anderson knew Lathen worked at Portneuf Medical Center, so she contacted public relations director Mary Keating for help. Keating put the word out and soon discovered Lathen is the man.

“I think she is a hero herself,” Lathen said. “Because being a school teacher, they just don’t get the praise that a lot of people in other professions do.”

Anderson said her ongoing heart troubles won’t allow her to continue teaching at Jefferson Elementary School but she is grateful to be alive.

“The thing I feel so incredibly blessed about is that I didn’t hurt my daughter and I didn’t hurt my grandkids,” Anderson said. “And that, because of Craig, my grandkids didn’t watch me die.”

Lathen graduated from Idaho State University with his nursing degree in 2017 before beginning his job at Portneuf Medical Center.

“I’m thrilled,” Lathen said. “I’ve been telling everyone, not to brag or anything like that, but I’m super excited she survived and that we had a win.”

Melanie Parrish Anderson and her family with Craig Lathen, the man credited for saving her life by providing CPR on the side of a busy interstate. | Eric Grossarth, EastIdahoNews.com
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