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Man, first responders honored for saving woman who blacked out going 80 mph on the freeway

East Idaho Real Heroes

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POCATELLO — Melanie Parrish Anderson doesn’t remember much about what happened on a beautiful June day last summer other than she was traveling on I-84 with her daughter and 2 grandkids to Boise. They were on their way to see her granddaughter perform in Frozen.

They left their Pocatello home and reached Twin Falls but that’s the last thing Anderson remembers.

“My daughter was talking on the phone to her husband. I was driving, we were going 80 mph and then the car started going off the side of the road,” Anderson says. “Kimberly, my daughter, dropped her phone and said, ‘Mom, Mom what are you doing? What’s happening?'”

Anderson had blacked out and her daughter had to act fast. She grabbed the wheel and was able to get the vehicle back on the interstate but overcorrected in the process.

“We were actually sliding diagonally down the freeway and then it went across the median into oncoming traffic going the opposite way,” Anderson recalls. “She turned the wheel again so we went back into the median and it kind of spun out in between the freeway.”

Finally, the car stopped. Miraculously nobody was injured and nothing had been hit.

Craig Lathen, a nurse who works at Portneuf Medical Center, was on his way to see his girlfriend. He saw Anderson’s car in the median and knew he had to stop.

“I could see the driver slumped over the steering wheel. I was definitely thinking that wasn’t good so I pulled over,” Lathen tells EastIdahoNews.com.

Two other good Samaritans had stopped by the time Lathen ran across the busy interstate. He made sure Kimberly and the kids were ok and called 911. Anderson was still breathing but she started to fade fast and soon lost a pulse.

“That’s when we started doing CPR. I remember doing at least four to five cycles of 100 compressions before the first responders showed up,” Lathen says.

Sgt. Sjuni Bunderson and Officer Austin Wells from the Kimberly Police Department arrived within minutes. They helped Lathen give CPR, along with Rock Creek firefighters Gary Sabin and Tim Daniels.

EMTs shocked Anderson’s heart and it started beating, but in the ambulance, it stopped again. She was rushed to a hospital in Twin Falls and then flown to Salt Lake City.

“The next day I was on the airplane and I woke up,” Anderson says. “There was carpet on the wall and I thought, ‘That’s interesting’ and then I looked and Kimberly was with me. She rubbed my cheek and said, ‘Mom, you’re gonna be ok.'”

Anderson was ok but needed a pacemaker and she was left trying to put the pieces together of what happened and who helped her.

She knew a nurse from Portneuf had stopped so she reached out to the hospital and eventually found out it was Lathen.

They met two months after the crash where she thanked him for saving her life.

“That was pretty spectacular to get to see somebody you helped in person and see their family,” Lathen says. “It was nice knowing you were able to extend somebody’s life like that so they could go on more trips and spend more Christmases and stuff with their family.”

Anderson now goes to rehab every day at same hospital where Lathen works. She hopes to find the other two people who stopped to help. They weren’t looking for attention – neither were Lathen and the others involved.

“I think anyone in my position who has those skills of CPR would have done the same thing,” Lathen says. “I just feel blessed that she survived and I get to share this experience with her.”

Anderson adds, “Every person – from Craig and the two anonymous mystery gentleman to the officers to the EMTs – everything went wonderful.”

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