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Humble heroes: Couple saves the life of Hastings woman

Jerry Harrington and Melanie Olson hold their plaques as they pose for a picture with some city officials and Angela Tukuafu. Photo courtesy of City of Hastings

Something didn't look right to Jerry Harrington when he was on his way out of town for the weekend with his girlfriend, Melanie Olson.

The couple was driving down Vermillion Street when Harrington noticed a vehicle parked in a parking lot near the old Mill. A woman's leg was sticking out of the vehicle.

Olson told him to turn around and go back just to check it out. Olson hopped out of the car and went over to check on the woman. She immediately yelled back to Harrington to call 911.

"It looked really bad, she was cold to the touch," Olson said.

Olson took the woman out of the vehicle while Harrington called for help. The two of them traded off doing two or three rounds of CPR until first responders arrived.

Harrington said that he had some training in CPR through work training and Olson is a nurse at a hospital in Cannon Falls. Even with all that experience, she said that it never becomes normal to find someone in crisis.

Without the life-saving efforts made by Harrington and Olson, Angela Tukuafu would not be alive today.

"God definitely put them where I needed them because that's not where they should have been," Tukuafu said.

Harrington and Olson were recognized by the city of Hastings at the Sept. 5 city council meeting where they received plaques for their life-saving efforts.

Tukuafu said that she doesn't remember most of what happened but she knows that she had just left work feeling fine when she was on her way to Red Wing to see a family member. She was on the phone with her husband when she began telling him that she didn't feel good, her heart was racing and she was short of breath. He told her to pull over her vehicle, which is when she pulled into the parking lot off of Vermillion Street.

Her husband told her that he heard her stop breathing. It must have been about five minutes before Harrington and Olson showed up, Tukuafu said.

Once first responders arrived, they ended up having to shock her three times to get her heart rhythm back to where it should be.

Tukuafu later found out that she has Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome. She has already had surgery for the syndrome and is now doing well.

Tukuafu said that she thinks it is so important for everyone to learn CPR because people don't always know that they need to call 911. She thought she could make it to the emergency room on her own, but that was not the case.

Harrington and Olson said that they do not feel like heroes even though Tukuafu has thanked them more times than she can count. The couple said the fact that Tukuafu is alive and can continue to be a mother to her three children is all the thanks they need.

It was a gut feeling for Harrington and Olson to turn around and go back to check on Tukuafu. They urge everyone to do the same if they ever see something that doesn't look right.

"If you feel like something is wrong, go back, check it out," Olson said.

Michelle Wirth

Michelle Wirth graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in 2013 with a degree in journalism and web design. She worked as a web content editor for a trade association before coming to the Hastings Star Gazette in 2016.

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