When her father collapsed, Hunter acted as his nurse

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By Jenny Hartley

Carol Hunter usually works weekends in her job as an emergency room nurse at Springs Memorial Hospital.

But at the last minute, she decided to take the weekend of Father's Day off, so she could take her father, Darwin Steele, out to dinner.

They went to JB's Barbecue in Heath Springs for Father's Day dinner. Steele fixed a plate for himself, and his wife, Frances, while Hunter fixed their teas.

That's when Steele, 82, started to feel "right swimmy-headed," he said.

Hunter saw her dad leaning down toward the floor at their table. She thought he was trying to pick something up from the floor.

When she got to the table, she realized he had collapsed.

The veteran nurse once told a coworker that she didn't think she'd ever be able to perform emergency procedures on her parents. But her nurse's instinct took over that day.

She tilted her father's head back and felt for a carotid or radial pulse. She put her hand over his nose and mouth, feeling for breath. Her father had no signs of life.

At first, people in the restaurant froze.

Hunter yelled for help in getting her dad onto the floor so she could begin CPR.

She blew two breaths into his mouth and began chest compressions.

Hunter's daughter, Jennifer Allen, also a nurse, and a Lancaster County Emergency Medical Services worker, Melissa Munn, who happened to be at the restaurant, helped Hunter by checking Steele's pulse.

"It never even crossed my mind to panic," Hunter said. "It was just instinct. He was in trouble. I do remember saying, 'Lord, please don't do this to me today.'"

Hunter was able to revive her father and he was taken to Springs Memorial Hospital. He had a defibrillator implanted in his chest on Wednesday and was released the next day.

Hunter said her father is in relatively good health for his age. He had a stint put in his heart 11 years ago, and watches what he eats.

"He can tell you how many carbs are in a half a cracker," she said.

Steele said he's still sore from his recent ordeal.

He'll go back to the cardiologist on Friday for a checkup to see if the defibrillator is doing its job.

"I'm glad she was there. They told me if she hadn't been there, I mighta had my toes covered up," Steele said, using a euphemism for death. "I reckon she gave me a good present."

But Father's Day isn't the first time Steele has flat-lined, he said. He also stopped breathing when he had a heart attack 11 years ago.

"That's two times I've knocked and they didn't let me in," Steele said, jokingly. "They must have something planned for me."

Contact senior reporter Jenny Hartley at jhartley@thelancasternews.com or (803) 283-1151