Jackie Nelson thought her daughter was going to die.
The 10-month-old stopped breathing at a Council Bluffs Walmart, leading to frantic moments for Nelson.
But a pair of nurses who happened to be shopping with their own kids became her daughter Hazel’s guardian angels that day.
“Those women took the action to jump in and help her,’’ Nelson said. “They are heroes to Hazel.”
Hazel has lived with serious medical problems since birth.
She has congenital heart disease and a condition called pulmonary hypertension, which requires her heart to work extra hard to push blood into the lungs.
Her medical problems can turn even simple colds into dangerous health troubles. In February, Hazel had a routine checkup for her hypertension, but was also tested to see if viruses were the cause of a cough she had recently developed.
On the way home from the appointment, Hazel coughed and vomited. Nelson cleaned her up and decided to make a quick stop at Walmart to pick up some soap and hand sanitizer.
Hazel seemed to be doing fine as Nelson set Hazel’s car seat in the shopping cart and picked out the items she needed.
But while Nelson was in the hand sanitizer aisle, she glanced at Hazel and noticed an alarming change. Her daughter’s eyes had rolled back in her head and she was shaking as if having a seizure.
She reached out to her daughter, calling loudly, “Hazel, Hazel, Hazel,” trying to get a response.
But her daughter started turning blue. Nelson frantically dialed 911.
Mariah Thurman, a pediatric nurse from Council Bluffs, was in the store that day with her 1-year-old daughter when she heard Nelson cry out that her baby was in trouble.
Nelson began rushing to the front of the store, pushing Hazel in the shopping cart.
Thurman dashed after her and began performing CPR on Hazel near the store’s entrance.
Deanna Berning, an emergency room nurse from Shenandoah, Iowa, was at the customer service counter with her 7-year-old daughter and 9-year-old son when she heard the commotion.
Berning told Thurman she is an ER nurse, and began assisting with the CPR.
Soon the color began returning to Hazel’s face, and she resumed breathing.
Within minutes, an ambulance crew arrived, and Nelson rushed out the door with the paramedics and her daughter to Children’s Hospital & Medical Center in Omaha. She didn’t have a chance to thank the two nurses.
Hazel ended up spending a week in the hospital.
The physicians and nurses at Children’s are familiar with Hazel because that’s where she has received care from specialists since she was born.
Venus Anderson, a nurse practitioner at Children’s who coordinates Hazel’s care, said the child’s breathing emergency at Walmart was likely triggered by vomit that she had sucked into her lungs. It’s not uncommon for young children to accidentally suck vomit into their lungs, but Hazel’s existing medical problems likely put her at higher risk to stop breathing as a result.
A medical procedure Hazel underwent at Children’s a month before the emergency at Walmart helped her survive the episode — the procedure relieves pressure on the heart when it’s being overworked.
Nelson said that while the procedure gave Hazel an advantage that day, she has no doubt the two nurses saved her little girl’s life.
Nelson was able to locate the two women through Facebook and get together with them a few weeks after the incident. She hugged them and thanked them for what they did.
Nelson remembers that when Hazel was born, she and her husband, Brandon, worried that she might not live to see her first birthday.
Little Hazel turns 1 on June 23, and her parents are planning a big party.