As the volleyball coach for Jefferson High School in Festus, Missouri, Ashleigh Nagel is looked upon for guidance. But, on July 16 when she suffered a heart attack, it was the team at a nearby physical therapy office that had to lead her to survival.
The 41-year-old wife and mother of two was walking across a shopping center parking lot with her young children when she collapsed. Thankfully, the team at Elite Physical Therapy was alert and fast-acting.
Dr. Scott Schuessler began chest compressions while his co-workers tended to Nagel’s worried children. Schuessler performed CPR for 18 minutes before firefighters arrived and rushed Nagel to the hospital, where she was put in a medically induced coma for two weeks.
Once everyone knew Nagel was going to pull through, her doctor told her husband, Corey, that there was an angel in the parking lot that day.
“He [the doctor] said, ‘You better go find that guy, and you better thank him like nobody’s business because he absolutely, 100 percent saved your wife’s life,'” Corey told FOX 2.
It’s been a difficult recovery for Nagel. During the medical emergency, she aspirated and later came down with acute respiratory distress syndrome, which required her to have a tracheotomy, so she could be put on a ventilator.
But, she fought back, and was later moved to a rehabilitation facility, where she relearned how to hold her head up and handle a spoon.
Months later, she’s still not on the bench coaching her volleyball team, but on September 27 while watching her team play, she was surprised during a ceremony by Schuessler and the firefighters from the Metro West Fire Protection District, who showed up on scene that frightful day.
Pregame pics of the honoring of Jefferson Volleyball head coach Ashleigh Nagel after she survived a heart attack on July 16, 2018. Everyone wearing read to raise awareness for heart disease. Coverage of the @FHSTigersVball and @JHS_vball match will begin at 7 on KJFF! pic.twitter.com/rIWLPH8dnt
— KJFF Sports (@KJFFSPORTS) September 27, 2018
Nagel’s mother, Nancy Isenhower Smith, was on-hand that night as well and shared her thoughts in a Facebook post.
“I am overwhelmed tonight. Getting to meet and talk to the Physical therapist and the emts who literally saved Ashleigh Smith Nagel’s life and hearing the unknown to us side of the story makes us realize even more what a gift her life is from God,” she wrote. “In 97% of the cases like Ashleigh’s, the patient dies.”
“It’s very heart touching,” Nagel added. “I’m so thankful, so grateful, and it’s not just tonight.”
During her recovery, the Jefferson High School community raised money for Nagel and her family. Rather than use it themselves, they’ve decided to create a scholarship for graduating seniors who wish to go into the health field.
Eventually, Nagel will be back on the bench with her team thanks to the perfect bump, set and spike by heroes in her community.