Daycare provider Rose Menning 'a hero' after using CPR to save life of Declan Hobbs

Mar. 22—MITCHELL — Ashley Hobbs was having a pretty good morning.

It was early January and she had just helped host a First Friday Coffee at her new United Way office space at the BankWest building on North Sanborn. When the event was over, she helped tidy up and then went to work on some paperwork with a fellow staffer. She had turned her phone off for the morning so she could concentrate on her work, and she wasn't wearing her Apple Watch.

When she had a free moment, she checked her phone.

Seventeen text messages and two missed calls from her husband Kyle.

Her daycare provider, Rose Menning, had sent one of the messages. "It's an emergency. Come now."

Hobbs knew that emergency meant something was either wrong with one of her two sons who attend Menning's daycare or with Menning herself. She bolted out the door for Avera Queen of Peace Hospital.

"I flew out of there," Hobbs told the Mitchell Republic. "I was in a state of shock. I got to the ER and was greeted by two police officers and a chaplain. And my heart just sank."

She found herself in the middle of a mother's worst nightmare. Her then 3-month-old son Declan suffered a medical emergency while attending Menning Family Daycare and Preschool. Declan appeared stable, but it was a dizzying moment for the mother of four, with a million questions running through her mind.

"The doctor greeted me and said he is OK, and they were just trying to find out what happened," Hobbs said. "Well, what did happen?"

Menning, 62, has been a daycare provider for 37 years, and she's seen it all. But that day in early January was something new for the seasoned childcare veteran.

"You've seen it all, it's just that you see different things," Meaning said. "I've had a child with a broken arm, and I've had stitches, but nothing as extreme as this."

Declan suffers from acid reflux, a condition that could cause him discomfort, but he is generally considered a happy, smiley baby. Menning just fed him and put him down to play in the toy area and then proceeded to set out mats for naptime for the other children.

But her instincts, cultivated from years of experience, alerted her to something amiss.

"He was being really quiet and good, so I started getting mats out for naps, and I turned around and it seemed too quiet," Menning said. "And I went over, and he was not breathing."

Menning immediately went into emergency mode. She picked him up and went through procedures that were ingrained in her mind. She tapped his leg and arms and gave him a gentle shake. But Declan remained unresponsive.

After a quick prayer, she moved him to a counter, grabbed her phone, set it to speakerphone and dialed 911.

"I think I didn't give them a chance to even speak. I said the address and that I had an unresponsive 3-month-old and I'm starting CPR," Menning said. "And the woman said OK, we're on our way, go ahead."

Menning had trained in CPR since she was a highschooler. She had taken a CPR and first aid course at the suggestion of her mother, and she continued that education throughout her life. She takes yearly courses to refresh her training, twice the amount required for certification in the procedure.

Hobbs said Menning's quick action brought Declan around.

"She did three back blows and two rescue breaths, and he finally puked and got everything out, and he did start breathing. But his heartbeat was very faint," Hobbs said.

Emergency responders arrived in a matter of minutes, and Menning met medical personnel on the corner outside her home and passed Declan to Brandon Manchester, a paramedic with the Mitchell Ambulance Service. Manchester and his crew headed straight to Avera Queen of Peace, where doctors took over and stabilized the youngster.

Hobbs said a combination of Declan's reflux along with an undetected RSV infection formed a perfect storm. He had aspirated that day and couldn't clear his small airway, his infection having thickened his mucus. Menning performing CPR cleared that blockage, brought Declan back to consciousness and saved emergency crews valuable minutes by reviving him.

"(CPR) brought all of that out of him," Menning said.

Declan was monitored at the hospital for 24 hours before being sent home, though his RSV infection flared up and he had to make a return visit. But it wasn't long before Declan was back to his usual cheerful self among the other children at Menning's home, where he was recently enjoying some time in the yard thanks to the warm weather.

Hobbs is effusive in her praise for the Mitchell emergency crews that responded to the call that day, and she is clear in her assessment of Menning's performance — she saved Declan's life.

"She did exactly what she was supposed to do. The medical people said we were so lucky. There was nothing she could have done better, which doesn't surprise me. That's why I take my kids there," Hobbs said. "The medical providers and police have said Rose is to credit. She brought him back."

Hobbs credits Menning with saving Declan, and Menning credits her continuous CPR training for giving her the mental wherewithal to handle the frightening situation. As life has slowly returned to normal, Hobbs is now hoping others emulate Menning by embracing life-saving CPR courses.

The Hobbs family has since established the Declan Hobbs CPR Fund through the United Way. The program is currently aimed at daycare providers and teachers and pays the fee for CPR training that can be obtained in Mitchell. The fund covers the $50 cost for training that ensures certification in the practice for two years.

"We just really want to bring awareness," Hobbs said. "The thing about CPR is that it is applicable to everyone. It can save someone's life at church, at the grocery store, at the pool. Just bringing that awareness about CPR and that it's available in our community is so key."

Manchester, who was one of the paramedics who responded to Declan's emergency, teaches CPR classes in Mitchell regularly through his business

Emergency Education Associates.

He has taught classes for many businesses and organizations over the years. Monthly classes on CPR and the use of

automated external defibrillators

(AEDs) are held on the second Thursday of every month.

While Declan's Fund is set up to help teachers and daycare providers, anyone can benefit from CPR training. Any training in the procedure is beneficial, even if only taken once, Manchester said. And it's useful in several situations, even in a case like Declan's, where his heart had not stopped.

"When you take a CPR class, you're more comfortable when something happens. Even if it's just hands-only CPR, it's better than doing nothing," Manchester said. "For every minute that passes with CPR not being performed on someone in cardiac arrest, the chances of survival decreases by 10%."

Manchester praised Menning's dedication to keeping up with her CPR studies. Menning takes classes yearly.

"CPR certification is good for two years, but Rose wants to take it every year. She takes it upon herself to take the class every year. This time it actually helped save a life," Manchester said.

Menning said that regular training allowed her to do what she needed to do practically without thinking. Even though she had never had to use CPR before performing it on Declan, she was able to remain calm by recalling those years of study.

Like Hobbs, she would love to see more daycare providers and those in childcare in general, like teachers, take it upon themselves to take regular training. It can benefit anyone from grandparents to teenagers and can be used anywhere at any time, from church to the grocery store.

For daycare providers, Menning feels it's a crucial responsibility to be prepared for any situation.

"You have to (be professional) with other people's children. They're not your family. This is a business. The parents and kids become your friends over the years, but that's not what it's about," Menning said. "It's not about friendship or family, it's about business, and you have to run it professionally at all times."

Machester's classes also cover the operation of AEDs, which can be found at numerous locations around the community, including city-owned spaces like the Corn Palace, various businesses like the BankWest building that hosts Hobbs' office and buildings at the Mitchell Public School. An AED is a lightweight, portable device that delivers an electric shock through the chest to the heart when it detects an abnormal rhythm and changes the rhythm back to normal.

AEDs have a built-in speaker that gives instructions to the user on how to use them during an emergency, but training with the devices makes users even more familiar with the units. Knowing how to use AEDs and perform CPR can be the difference between life or death, Manchester said.

Joe Childs, superintendent of the Mitchell School District, said CPR training is done for all coaches and advisers at the school yearly, and it is integrated into the personal health and wellness coursework for middle school students. That training is covered again at the high school in health survey and youth health internship courses. The school nurses are also trained in the procedure, and Childs estimates he himself has taken training at least a dozen times.

The district has nine AEDs and faculty has received training on them, as well.

Childs said the training provided through Declan's Fund is a great option for teachers, and the incident with Declan serves as a reminder of the importance of being prepared.

"It's a heroic reminder of why we have this as a regular part of our professional development. Even at times when you're thinking that I just did this last year, it's a reminder of why it is critically important," Childs said.

Declan's Fund is already getting people into the classroom to study CPR. The first cohort just completed training. The group included Menning, who at this point could probably teach the classes herself, as well as Hobbs' daughter Nora, 10, who takes care of Declan on occasion.

A week ago, Declan was back at daycare with Menning, a gaggle of energetic children in the yard playing around him. He's back to his notoriously happy, cheerful self, and his health is good.

"They can't get his reflux under control, but he is a healthy, very happy baby. Honestly, people ask about how he is so happy all the time?" Hobbs said.

Menning said being able to perform CPR is a skill everyone should have, especially for daycare providers. She would like to see anyone who operates a daycare or who works with children to be fully versed in the procedure, but it can be useful for anyone, anywhere at any time.

"We all have moms, we all have dads. We have siblings. What if it's your brother? What if you're at the family gathering and you choke and go down? Somebody has to know CPR for you. That's the thing, you never know who it is," Menning said. "We all go to church. We all go to the grocery store. We all walk down the street to a park. You want your neighbors to know CPR in case it's you that's down."

On that scary day in January, it was Declan who needed help. Hobbs said it's difficult to even think what could have happened if Menning had not acted quickly.

As Declan played among his friends at daycare, his shirt announced the Hobbs family's feelings about it all. It is emblazoned with "Rosie Is My Hero" in bold letters.

Hobbs said it's a cute shirt. But it's also the truth.

"People take for granted their daycare provider. I loved her before she saved Declan's life, and now even more so. She is truly a hero," Hobbs said.

More information on donations to the Declan Hobbs CPR Fund can be found by contacting United Way at www.mitchellunitedway.org, sending email to ashley@mitchellunitedway.org or by calling 605-996-3915. Manchester's CPR and AED courses can be scheduled for anyone by contacting www.emergencyeducationassociates.com.