Wednesday, March 24, 1999

Teen with love for 'ER' helps save mom's life

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Unika Hightower, 13, gets a kiss from her mother, Lisa, 34, at University Hospital.
(Yoni Pozner photo)
| ZOOM |
        For Lisa Hightower, it's a good thing her teen-age daughter Unika is a big fan of the television show ER. Thursday evening, Mrs. Hightower was braiding a nephew's hair during a family barbecue when she collapsed from a heart attack.

        While other family members called 911, 13-year-old Unika Hightower, a sixth- grader at Schwab Middle School in Northside, rushed to her mother's side.

        “She wasn't breathing,” Unika recalled Tuesday. “So I started breathing in her mouth, and my aunt (Lenise Wright) started pushing on her chest.”

        Neither rescuer had ever taken a cardiopulmonary resuscitation class. They simply tried to do what they saw so many times on television. ER is Unika's favorite show.

        It wasn't textbook, but doctors say it was enough to keep some air and some blood circulating in Mrs. Hightower until paramedics arrived about 10 minutes later.

        “I don't remember a thing. But I'm glad they were there, 'cause I wouldn't be here,” said Mrs. Hightower, 34, of Northside.

        When paramedics arrived, she was in cardiac arrest. They used a portable defibrillator to shock her heart back into proper rhythm and assisted with her breathing while they rushed her to University Hospital.

        Family members say Mrs. Hightower stopped breathing three times during the initial few hours of her care. But now she is stable and listed in good condition at the Hospital. Doctors are still investigating why her heart stopped, but they agree that quick action by Unika and her aunt helped save Mrs. Hightower's life.

        Supervised training is preferred, but CPR doesn't have to be perfect to help, said Dr. Rob Finlay, an internal medicine resident at the hospital.

        Family members said Unika was so coolheaded during the ordeal that they think she ought to go into medicine when she grows up. “My baby's going to be a doctor,” Mrs. Hightower said.


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