Woman honors DC Fire and EMS, 911 operator who saved her life after heart attack

Debra Lappin hugs Janay Bailey, the 911 operator who instructed her fiance Craig Kramer to perform CPR on her in March when she was having a heart attack.

Debra Lappin poses with the Engine Company 16 first responders and the 911 operator who saved her life.

John A. Donnelly Sr., chief of D.C. Fire and EMS, speaks during a ceremony to honor those who helped save Debra Lappin’s life in March.

Debra Lappin gives her fiancee Craig Kramer a Cardiac Arrest Coin award. He provided her CPR with the help of 911 operator Janay Bailey when she went into cardiac arrest.

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D.C. Fire and EMS members were honored in a ceremony on Friday for saving a woman’s life after she had a heart attack earlier this year.

When Craig Kramer called 911 on March 12 as his fiancee was having a heart attack, he didn’t know how to perform CPR. However, with the help of call taker Janay Bailey, he was able to keep her alive until DC Fire and EMS got to their house.

“She always firmly got me back in line counting and counting with me right up until help arrived,” Kramer said.

Debra Lappin said she survived because of the CPR instructions Bailey gave to Kramer and how quickly first responders arrived.

“I had less than a 10% survival rate opportunity that day,” Lappin said.

On Friday, Lappin presented Cardiac Arrest Save Coins to Bailey and the Engine Company 16 members who arrived on the scene.

“These are amazing human beings,” Lappin said. “What your program recognizes is the extraordinary live-saving work on this amazing relay that begins before you get there.”

John A. Donnelly Sr., chief of D.C. Fire and EMS, said he’s proud of the team at Engine Company 16 and of Bailey with the Office of Unified Communications.

“This incident is an excellent demonstration of our emergency medical services systems in the District of Columbia,” Donnelly said. “We are so grateful to have Debra with us.”

Lappin is a health care principal on health and biosciences with Faegre Drinker Consulting and working on projects such as the COVID-19 vaccines and Alzheimer’s research.

She even got a birthday video greeting from Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, last year.

She never thought she’d be the one that needed emergency help to save her life.

“I’ve said to each of them, do you go to work every morning saying, ‘this is the day I might save a life?’ Who does that? And you all do. And you all did that day and it was my life you saved,” Lappin said.

After being intubated in her home, she was taken to George Washington Hospital. While recovering in the intensive care unit, Lappin’s daughter called to tell her that she was pregnant.

Lappin said she’s grateful that she will get to see her granddaughter arrive later this year and that she gets to marry Kramer next year.

“I do feel an obligation to love my family even more and to make my own work even more meaningful,” Lappin said.

Valerie Bonk

Valerie Bonk started working at WTOP in 2016 and has lived in Howard County, Maryland, her entire life. She's thrilled to be a reporter for WTOP telling stories on air. She works as both a television and radio reporter in the Maryland and D.C. areas. 

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