May 14, 2007

2002 DC graduate honored for saving life

Naomi Benda was recently recognized for saving a woman’s life last August

By Kristen Miller
Staff Writer

It was a scene straight out of a movie, and luckily Naomi Benda was at the right place at the right time. She is now being recognized for saving a Michigan woman’s life.

The 2002 Dassel-Cokato graduate and recent nursing school graduate now has a classroom dedicated to her which will educate future nursing students on how to handle various emergency situations.

It all began when Benda was eating at a restaurant with her family in Houghton, Mich. last August. Someone asked in a panic if there was a doctor or EMT available.

Having CPR training and being a nursing student, Benda raised her hand and hurried to the bathroom where she found a woman without a pulse and not breathing.

“I honestly thought she was dead,” Drake said.

The woman, Cathi Drake, had fallen on the floor in cardiac arrest.

Benda performed CPR on the woman until the ambulance arrived. The paramedics later said that Benda was instrumental in saving Drake’s life, according to The Mining Journal of Marquette, Mich.

At Benda’s nursing commencement pinning ceremony May 4, she was informed of a $75,000 donation by the Drakes for a critical care simulation lab in Benda and Drake’s name.

“It was a total surprise,” Benda said after the emotional ceremony.

During the ceremony, she also received a State of Michigan Certificate of Tribute citation from the governor and a special tribute from the house of representatives.

“I wasn’t sure when I first heard it announced what a critical care simulation lab would entail, but it’s a beautiful room, and it will be a greater learning environment for future classes here,” Benda said.

The Benda-Drake Room holds a life-like mannequin that simulates real life cardiac situations including cardiac arrest, according to Benda.

“We really appreciate what Naomi did, and what Northern Michigan University did in training her to handle such situations so well,” said Cathi’s husband John.

Benda describes the whole event as “surreal.” “I don’t think it has hit me yet,” she said.

“I’m in shock and blown away by the whole thing,” she said.

Even her boyfriend Jacob Wealton told her, “I don’t think you realize what a big deal this is.”

Benda’s parents Ann and Steve of Cokato are very proud of their little girl.

“She’s a special young lady,” Ann said. She added the importance of receiving CPR training.

“This is a very generous donation for the university,” Ann said.

With Benda being the only one in that restaurant with CPR training, “I believe there was a higher power working that day,” Ann said.

Benda is taking a job in Salt Lake City where she will work in a neurological orthopedic unit at Intermountain Healthcare.

“It’s a good unit to start out with and get some experience,” she said. Benda expects to be working with a lot of sports injuries related to snowboarding and skiing.

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