April 28, 2013.
Change of shift at the Grand Bank Health Centre.
The handover from the day shift staff to the night shift is proceeding as usual, when suddenly, a 911 call comes in to the Centre that a man has collapsed on the road not far from the hospital. An ambulance is required.
Jaclyn Hillier, a registered nurse, had just arrived to start her shift and Licensed Practical Nurse Lori Singleton was just getting ready to go home when they heard the call.
They both ran to the main entrance of the Health Centre – and spotted a small crowd across the road, a few hundred yards away.
They raced to the scene and approached the man who was unconscious, and having trouble breathing. Jaclyn took his pulse and knew CPR was needed – fast. She began chest compressions and Lori initiated mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
“You do what you’ve got to do,” says Lori. “I said to myself: no face mask? Oh well, mouth-to-mouth it is!”
Lori and Jaclyn were the first health care professionals to arrive, and there was no time to waste. Bystanders told them that the man, a senior, was walking with his wife, when he suddenly dropped to the ground.
“The ambulance was there within minutes of our arrival,” adds Jaclyn. “But those first few minutes of care mean everything in this kind of situation. This was my first time treating a patient outside – with just my bare hands – and the adrenalin rush was unreal! But I did what I was trained to do.”
Lori says she was so focused on what she was doing, she was hardly aware of the other people at the scene. “All your training comes automatically,” she says. “It all falls into place.”
When the ambulance arrived, the emergency staff took over and managed to establish a normal heart rhythm, stabilizing the man enough to transport him to the Intensive Care Unit at the Burin Hospital, close to 60 kilometres away.
Jaclyn went home later, thinking: “I lost him.”
Not so fast! Within a couple of days, by his own account, he was talking and eating, and in less than a week was released from hospital.
And what does the patient think about it all? Sixty-nine-year-old Garfield Simms doesn’t remember much about the events of that night or the heart attack that landed him in hospital. But he sums up his recovery this way: “The doctors couldn’t believe it! It was not my time to go – God gave me another chance.”
And he’s full of praise about the health care he received in both Burin and Grand Bank. “Grand Bank done an excellent job – there are wonderful people at both hospitals. I can’t say enough about ‘em!”
As for Jaclyn and Lori? “They’re my guardian angels,” declares Mr. Simms. “It was marvelous and wonderful.”
In a small town like Grand Bank, there’s a good chance you’ll run into your health care providers and Mr. Simms says they’ve bumped into each other a few times since their first encounter that night in April.
“I see them all the time – and there’s always hugs all around!”
The ‘guardian angels’ say that although there’s never a good time to have a heart attack, Garfield Simms was in the right place at the right time…close to the health centre at a change of shift, when there were extra nursing staff on hand.
Yvonne Harris is the Manager of Patient and Resident Care at the Grand Bank Health Centre – and Lori and Jaclyn’s supervisor. She says the events of that night – and the outcome – made everyone feel pretty good.
“When I heard of the measures taken by these two nurses, I experienced a ‘Wow’ moment! I was so proud that to know these two nurses had run to the aid of this man at his greatest moment of need,” she adds. “I am grateful to have them here on my nursing team, and so pleased that they jumped into action when they did, basically saving this man’s life. Their quick response, dedication and actions resulted in a very positive outcome.”
So how does it feel to help save a person’s life? Lori says, “I just cried. It is so rewarding to see him walking around enjoying his life.”
“There are no words,” adds Jaclyn. “It makes up for every bad day I’ve ever had and it’s what I’m in nursing for. Just to see his smiling face is all the thanks I need!” ■
This story was written by Deborah Collins, a communications manager in St. John’s.