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In the right place ... at the right time

  • Wednesday, May 9, 2012

    Beth Kellam - physician assistant studentPRINCESS ANNE, MD - (May 8, 2012) - Beth Kellam went to her gym in Salisbury Saturday looking to "burn off some stress" that comes with being a college student facing final exams when she spotted a man slumped over in a pick-up truck in the parking lot.

    "At first, I thought he might be sleeping, but I just had this feeling something wasn't right," said Kellam, a junior in UMES' physician assistant program.

    One of the truck's windows was down, so Kellam approached and when he didn't respond to her voice, she hesitantly reached out hoping to gently wake him - or gauge if he was experiencing a medical emergency.

    It proved to be the latter.

    The man was unresponsive and not breathing.

    Kellam, a former fitness trainer who lives in Princess Anne, had CPR training and knew exactly what to do.

    "I took a deep breath," she said. "I went into auto drive. My adrenaline was going. Everything I knew took over."

    At 5-feet 6-inches and slightly built, Kellam realized she also needed help. She flagged down a man and instructed him to call 9-1-1. She found another person to help her pull the sick man out of the vehicle and onto the pavement so she could administer the familiar chest massage.

    It wasn't long before a highly trained City of Salisbury ambulance crew arrived and whisked the man off to Peninsula Regional Medical Center. Salisbury's fire department stepped forward to praise Kellam's quick, aggressive response to a medical emergency.

    "The earlier somebody can intervene, the better," Assistant Fire Chief Chris O'Barsky told a reporter from WBOC, which aired a story about Kellam's heroics."If all you do is chest compressions, that's better than doing nothing."

    Darlene Jackson-Bowen, chair and program director of UMES' physician assistant department, has coined the term "Shero" to describe Kellam and her selfless act.

    "We're so proud of her," Jackson-Bowen said. "She used the skills learned here in the program. She reacted automatically, and that's what a physician assistant should do."

    At 31, Kellam is what educators call an "adult learner." Her nine-year-old son Mason and six-year-old daughter Hannah call her "Mom." Hannah was born eight weeks early, a turning point in Beth Kellam's life.

    Long, agonizing hours in a Norfolk-area hospital in those crucial early days convinced her she should emulate what she saw the medical staff doing to stabilize her daughter.

    "I want to be able to help people the way the doctors and nurses helped us in our time of need," the Exmore, Va. native said.

    Thanks to the TV report, word of Kellam's deed has spread quickly.

    "People are sending e-mails, calling me to congratulate her," Jackson-Bowen said. "I'm like a proud 'momma' right now. She has a 'call' to help people and she certainly demonstrated that."

    Kellam, a dean's list student on schedule to earn her degree in December 2013, credits her faith with helping her remain calm under pressure and focused on attending school 40 hours a week as well as running a household.

    "I believe the Lord guides your steps, and He guided me to be there (in the parking) in that situation," she said. "I was doing what I should have done."

    Bill Robinson, director, UMES Office of Public Relations, 410-621-2355.