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'Guardian Angel' Sent to Oswego Woman During PrairieFest Medical Emergency

Jul 06, 2015 08:54PM ● By Steven Jack

Cheryl Keilson (far left) recently attended the graduation of her son, Kyle, from DePaul University. Pictured with Keilson are her daughter-in-law Megan and sons Kris and Kevin. (Submitted photo)


There’s little doubt that someone or something was watching over Cheryl Keilson the evening of Friday, June 19. 

Keilson, who is the superintendent of the Oswegoland Park District Kids Connection program, was working a late shift at PrairieFest that night. While talking with a friend, and with no warning, she fainted near the Food Tent in front of hundreds of bystanders. Doctors would later tell her she suffered sudden cardiac death — a routinely fatal condition caused when the electrical system to the heart malfunctions. 

Today, Keilson says she remembers absolutely nothing about that night, including the woman she credits with preventing massive brain damage and helping save her life — the woman she calls her Guardian Angel. 

Oswego resident Darice Bohne is a coronary intensive care nurse at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. She was attending PrairieFest that evening with her husband and children when she saw Keilson laying on the ground.

With no hesitation, Bohne said she rushed to Keilson's side and laid her on her back.

“I saw her there and thought ‘I have to go to her. I have to help her. This is someone’s mother, daughter, family member.’ ... When I first saw her she was laying on her side and wasn’t breathing but she still had a pulse,” Bohne said. “By the time I laid her on her back she had no pulse and I immediately began chest compressions.”

About a minute later, Bohne said an Oswego Police officer was by her side with an automated external defibrillator that they were able to hook up to Keilson's chest. After shocking her twice, Bohne said Keilson’s heart began beating again. Within two to three minutes, paramedics from the Oswego Fire Protection District on standby at the festival arrived and took over treatment, later taking her to Rush Copley Medical Center.

For Bohne, performing chest compressions and CPR has become second nature in her 22 years as a nurse. She admitted that she’s normally an anxious person, but on this night she said a calm came over her.

“I think God was with me there that night,” she said.

June’s incident isn’t the first time Keilson has faced a life-threatening medical condition in recent years. In 2012 she was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer. After a double mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation treatments she’s currently cancer free and had been in good health. 

While chemotherapy is known to increase the risk for heart disease and weaken the heart muscle, Keilson said her doctors couldn’t definitively say that her cancer treatments contributed to the sudden cardiac arrest. She said the more likely culprit is stress. 

“I’m always moving, and I never really stop,” Keilson said. “I’m learning to slow down. I’m so fortunate to have a second chance.”

Remarkably Keilson spent just four days in the hospital for treatment and recovery — during which time a defibrillator was implanted in her chest to help keep her heart beating normally. She said she won’t be returning to work at the Park District until at least August. 

“I can’t wait to get back to work,” she said. “It's amazing. I’m feeling perfectly fine except for a few broken ribs from the CPR, which is normal if you’re doing CPR right.”

As for a keeping in touch with Bohne, Keilson said she hopes to see her again soon.

“She did come to visit me in the hospital and we hugged and cried that we had shared this together,” she said. “We will absolutely stay in contact. She helped save my life. She was sent to me that day. She truly is my Guardian Angel.”

In addition to Bohne, Keilson said she has “so many people to thank for her life,” but she especially wanted to recognize the Oswego Police Department and the paramedics from the Oswego Fire Protection District.