WEST FARGO — On a recent Thursday evening, Janath Kuruppu was helping his daughter, 34-year-old Jay Abeykoon, paint her garage when he suddenly collapsed.
Startled into action, Abeykoon yelled for her husband to call 911 and immediately began administering CPR to her 64-year-old father.
Then began the longest 5 ½ minutes Abeykoon ever experienced as she continued CPR while waiting for emergency crews to arrive.
“I knew the risk and I knew how bad a heart attack is, so I was just hoping, 'If I can save him, the rest I can deal with later,'" Abeykoon told The Forum. “All I needed was to keep his brain safe, so that’s what I did.”
For her efforts on that day, May 9, she was presented with the F-M Ambulance Service Citizens Lifesaving Award on Tuesday, June 11, at the West Fargo Fire Department, 445 29th Ave. W.
Abeykoon is director of health and wellness at Mapleview Memory Care, so she's familiar with CPR. Still, she said, performing the lifesaving act on a family member is very different than performing it on a patient, and she had to push the thought out of her mind in order to concentrate.
“I had to just tell myself, ‘If you don’t pull yourself together, he can die,’” she said.
Normally a patient in cardiac arrest like Kuruppu has less than a 10% chance of survival, said Kristi Engelstad, the clinical learning and development specialist and outreach coordinator at F-M Ambulance Service.
“Because Janath received immediate CPR, his chances were quite a bit higher,” Engelstad said.
Officer James Ellefson of the West Fargo Police Department was one of the first emergency workers to arrive at the scene.
“She began (CPR) right away, and we got there quickly," he said. "He was shocked a couple times, and then he started coming to and you don’t see that very often. It’s kind of nice to see it here every once in a while.”
As Engelstad presented Abeykoon with the award, both of her parents were there to watch her be honored.
Her parents are visiting from Sri Lanka, and although her father doesn’t speak much English, he knows enough to describe his daughter’s actions for what they were.
“Amazing. Just great,” Kuppuru said.
Engelstad said Abeykoon didn’t want a lot of attention, but she convinced her to come receive the award to increase CPR awareness.
“I think it’s good that everyone knows about it because just that couple of minutes can make a big difference,” Abeykoon said.