But Eads doesn’t think of herself as a hero.
The 18-year-old Bristol resident and employee of a Pal’s Sudden Service on that city’s Volunteer Parkway received local, national and even international attention from news outlets after she performed CPR on a toddler who had stopped breathing outside the restaurant last month.
On Monday, Pal’s founder and owner Pal Barger hosted Eads — accompanied by her parents Earon and Tonia Eads — on a whirlwind trip to Nashville via private jet.
It was Eads’ first time flying. It also was her first time addressing the Tennessee General Assembly.
She seemed a natural at both.
As for the being called a hero, Eads said that just isn’t the way she sees it.
“I do not consider myself a hero,” Eads said, adding she thinks anyone asked to help in such a situation would do so if they, too, had been trained in CPR.
From her perspective, God put her — with her CPR skills just developed in a class she completed at Tennessee High School last semester, the toddler’s mother, and the child himself in the right place at the right time.
Eads was on “hot dogs” that evening at Pal’s, where she’s worked for about a year, when the woman came through the drive-thru to order food. But that quickly changed when she said she needed help because her son had stopped breathing. The employee at the drive-thru window asked if anyone knew CPR.
“I said, ‘Actually, I do,’ ” Eads said.
Eads literally leaped into action, jumping over boxes and a step ladder to exit the building and try to help.
She later described it to her parents as feeling as if that all happened — jumping the hurdles and opening the door — as one fluid moment.
“It was like I was in the Olympics,” Eads said. “I just think it was me giving back to my community, as I get from it. I thought it was a God-given blessing and so did the mother. I was able to pray with them when I went to the hospital.”
The boy began to breathe shortly after Eads started CPR, she told the Times-News on the plane ride to Nashville. She resumed CPR, she said, and he was breathing again by the time emergency medical response arrived and took him to the hospital.
Eads finished her shift and went home. She then went to the hospital because she wanted to try to find the mother and the boy and see how he was doing. She found them.
Among other things, the mother told Eads she’d actually been headed to a different fast-food restaurant to get food and passed Pal’s — then decided to turn around and go to Pal’s.
That, Eads said, was a part of what made it all seem like a miracle meant to be.
“I wanted to honor her simply because of the action she took,” State Rep. John Crawford said. “She was not willing to just be a bystander. She was willing to take action. It just shows the type of leaders we have coming up behind us to run our great country — to have an 18-year-old be calm and collected in a distressful situation and do what she did.”
Crawford, lead sponsor of the resolution honoring Eads, said he also hopes to raise public awareness of the need to be trained to perform CPR.
Barger said he plans to have all 114 assistant managers throughout the Pal’s chain become American Red Cross certified in CPR.
The resolution’s House co-sponsor was State Rep. Timothy Hill, while its lead sponsor on the Senate side was State Sen. Jon Lundberg.
As Eads made her way through the hallways of the capitol’s Legislative Plaza and waited outside the House of Representatives, she was approached by numerous lawmakers from across the state, all of whom wanted to shake her hand. Many also wanted to shake the hands of her parents and commend them for their parenting.
Kaela finished her high school education at Tennessee High a semester early and will “walk” with the rest of her class in May. She plans to begin a two-year “Tennessee Promise” stint at Northeast State Community College this fall.