Chesterfield triplets save dying dad’s life

Posted at 1:06 PM, Jan 07, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-07 18:49:13-05

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- Knowledge is power, but as three Chesterfield siblings proved -- it can also be lifesaving. The Zimmerman triplets pride themselves on being prepared for life’s unexpected hiccups. But in late November, 13-year-olds Mason, Melissa and Mackenzie faced with one of the most traumatic events of their young lives. On November 20, sisters Melissa and McKenzie were home with their father Keith. Suddenly the girls heard a crash. Keith's heart had stopped and he had fallen to the ground.

Keith Zimmerman (left), Melissa, Mason and McKenzie

Keith Zimmerman (left), Melissa, Mason and McKenzie

"My dad was like laying on the ground. He was pale and like stuff," Mackenzie said. "I started slapping him. I thought he was passed out. I thought if I slapped him he would wake up."

During the hectic few moments the sisters called their mother Penny, a professional nurse, who was at a nearby shopping center with brother Mason.

"The phone rings. I thought my daughters were fighting. I heard screaming. My daughter said ‘Daddy fell and he is making a funny noise,'" Penny recalled.

Penny knew with her husband’s past heart problems the situation was grave and time was critical.

The Zimmerman family

The Zimmerman family

"I went through the red lights. Honking horn. Sticking arms out and stopping traffic," she said.

Fortunately, the triplets learned CPR last summer. With a 911 dispatcher on the line, the sisters' instincts kicked in. Mackenzie and Melissa started CPR on their own father as he slipped away.

"[We were] really scared. I didn’t really know what was going to happen,” Mackenzie said. "The 911 operator said we had to 1-2. 1-2. 1-2."

When she got home, Penny said she saw her daughters doing chest compressions. With Chesterfield first responders racing to the scene, the minutes felt like hours.

"It felt like forever," Mackenzie said. "They had a stretcher and a defibrillator to shock him."

The devastating scene that unfolded on their kitchen floor was almost too much bear.

"I was so sick to my stomach," Penny said.

An ambulance whisked Keith to Chippenham Hospital where doctors and nurses took over.

"He was in the hospital and he was stable, but he was in a medically induced coma," Mason said.

As days passed, a surgery finally repaired Keith's ailing heart. Now, weeks after that dark day Keith is living with a temporary defibrillator.

Keith Zimmerman

Keith Zimmerman

"They had to keep telling me what happened over and over what happened," Keith said. "I was like Wow! Wow!"

While the incident was a major setback, the children are happy their father is alive thanks to three simple letters – CPR.

"It is amazing. I wouldn’t be around if they didn’t start the CPR," Keith said. "Biggest Christmas gift I ever have gotten."

The Zimmerman family said they were grateful for generous family and friends who collected money to help pay bills and buy groceries.

If you are interested learning more about CPR, click here to contact the American Red Cross.

Greg McQuade and CBS 6 News are featuring local heroes in a weekly “Heroes Among Us” segment. Watch Greg’s reports Thursdays on CBS News at 6 or here on If you would like to nominate someone to be featured on “Heroes Among Us,” click here to email