'Couldn't let him go:' Washington County woman saved stepfather's life with CPR

Rachel Nelson, Curt Vorpahl

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- A Washington County woman jumped into action to save her stepfather's life. The 26-year-old performed CPR until first responders arrived to help.

"I mean, it was crazy," said Rachel Nelson. "You sort of have to block the chaos out and focus on the job at hand."

Nelson and her stepfather, Curt Vorpahl, were hanging out with family on Friday, July 19.

"We thought it was going to be a great day to be out on the lake," said Vorpahl.

Rachel Nelson, Curt Vorpahl

The family was gathered when Vorpahl suddenly went into cardiac arrest.

Curt Vorpahl

"The last thing I remember was thinking how warm it was for it starting to become the evening," said Vorpahl.

Vorpahl's pulse faded away, and Nelson quickly reacted.

"I started immediately with compressions, followed by rescue breaths. I continued that for five minutes or so," said Nelson.

It involved five minutes of intense focus.

"I was thinking of my family the whole time, how I couldn't let him go. I didn't want to let my family down," said Nelson.

A first responder was nearby, providing a pocket mask and AED.

Rachel Nelson

"He was shocked by the AED," said Nelson.

Vorpahl made it to the hospital.

"I still don't believe it," Vorpahl said. "It's like it never happened."

Hearing how many people fought for his life brought Vorpahl immense gratitude and emotion.

"Every second counts in a situation like this," said Nelson.

Curt Vorpahl

Rachel Nelson, Curt Vorpahl

Nelson learned CPR as a teenage lifeguard. Over the years, she renewed her certification, and urged everyone to get theirs. The family was working with neighbors to hopefully put together a CPR course so more people can learn the life-saving skill.