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Nanny’s heroine: When grandmother falls ill, 6-year-old seeks help

Six-year-old Mackenna Hieb, left, looks on as her grandmother, Geni Hieb, recounts the events on July 3 when she said Mackenna saved her life after she passed out from low blood sugar. Also pictured from left are Mackenna's sister, Nevaeh, nurse Chelle Taylor, whom Mackenna sought out for help, and Taylor's infant son Zander and daughter Trinity Grainger. John M. Steiner / The Sun

A Jamestown woman credits her granddaughter for saving her life.

Geni Hieb wasn’t feeling well on Thursday morning. The Jamestown grandmother had taken one of her grandchildren, Nevaeh, 4, to Sanford Clinic on the morning of July 3, when she felt her blood sugar was getting low. Nevaeh’s sister, Mackenna, 6, got a nurse for Hieb, who suffers from hypoglycemia, a lifelong side effect of gastric-bypass surgery she underwent several years ago.

The nurse got Hieb something to drink, which perked her up a bit, but later at the pharmacy she felt her blood sugar dropping again. She decided to forgo a trip to Burger King with the kids and went home to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for her and the grandchildren, because she said peanut butter is a quick fix for low blood sugar.

“That’s the last thing I remember,” Hieb said.

Hieb lost consciousness as she was preparing the sandwiches and fainted, her right eyebrow striking the corner of the stove as she fell. That’s when Mackenna sprang into action, running next door with Nevaeh in tow to get help from Chelle Taylor, a hospice nurse with Jamestown Regional Medical Center who was home recuperating from a surgery.

“Both the girls were just panicked and in tears when they came to get me,” Taylor said.

“If you weren’t home I would have called 911 … Dad taught me,” Mackenna told her.

“I wake up and I’m seeing the cabinets, and I’m like, ‘I don’t know what is going on.’ I remember hearing ‘orange juice’ and I couldn’t drink it because I’m lying on the floor,” Hieb said.

Mackenna retrieved a straw for Hieb, who at that point was able to sit up against the cabinets and eat a little peanut butter. Hieb said she has felt dizzy or lightheaded from her condition before, but had never passed out. The orange juice usually perks her up in about 5 to 10 minutes.

“When they’re passing out like that, orange juice is really the best thing to give them,” Taylor said. “It just takes a few minutes once you get the orange juice into their system, and then from there you want to actually feed them something so they’re not so lethargic.”

Hieb told Taylor she was going to be OK, and made arrangements for her daughter, Mackenna’s aunt, to watch the grandkids while her husband, Todd, took her to the JRMC.

“Todd said he got a call from Mackenna that said, ‘Nanny’s passed out,’ and he says ‘OK,’ and he comes home … and I remember being on pillows but I don’t know where the pillows had come from,” Hieb said.

“I told Nevaeh to go get pillows because I was staying with you,” Mackenna told her grandmother.

Hieb was given a CT scan and X-rays, and despite all the juice she had tried to drink at home and at the JRMC, her blood sugar still only registered 44 milligrams per deciliter, when she’s supposed to be in the 88-102 range.

“It’s always been ‘I feel it coming on, quick fix of orange juice, peanut butter, candy bar, and I’m fine.’ That day I wasn’t,” Hieb said.

The medical staff was later able to stabilize her blood sugar, and she was discharged that day. Before she left, Hieb asked one of the nurses what would have happened if not for Mackenna.

“She said, ‘You’d have been in grave danger by the time Todd got home.’ So this little girl had the presence of mind to go and get and a neighbor. If not, I don’t know what would have happened,” Hieb said.

Hieb said she will see an optometrist on Aug. 11 to check if she has any vision loss due to her fall. She will also be meeting with a JRMC dietitian to learn how, what and when to eat to avoid another incident such as Thursday’s. Hieb said she knew she should be watching her diet but hadn’t been. Protein, she said, is one of the major staples she needs in her diet to keep her blood sugar in a safe range.

“Bacon and eggs every day for breakfast,” Hieb said.

Sun reporter David Luessen can be reached at 701-952-8455 or by email at