Nursing Alumnae Unite to Help Save Man’s Life
By Vickie (Mitchell) Hovell ’83 and Michelle (Felt) Johnson ’89
In March 2007, nurses from around the country gathered at the American Academy of Ambulatory Care Nursing annual conference, titled “Shaping the Future of Ambulatory Care.” Little did we know as we left the conference that our true Las Vegas adventure was only beginning, or that on our journey home we would have a hand in shaping the future of one man.
We were tired and looking forward to the comforts of our homes. We rushed to our gate, only to learn that our flight had been delayed. Other passengers arrived rushing as well, and slowly the seats around the terminal filled. Suddenly, a man slumped over in his chair. Bystanders laid him on the floor. He had no pulse and was not breathing. We yelled at the bystanders to call 911 and to find an AED, or automatic external defibrillator, and we immediately began CPR. Once the AED arrived, we gave the man one shock, and with a little more CPR he regained his pulse and began to breathe on his own. We turned him into the recovery position and shortly thereafter, ambulance personnel arrived to transport him to a nearby hospital.
He was able to receive bypass surgery and is recovering very well without any lasting damage. His wife had been very calm during the whole ordeal. She later shared that she never panicked because she knew he was in God’s hands and that it was not his time to go.
We are so grateful to have had the knowledge, skills, and experience to help this man in his time of need. Although the outcome was in God’s hands, it was truly a privilege to serve in this emergency situation.
Despite being Viterbo alumnae, we didn’t know each other prior to this event. But, in this one emergency situation, we worked together as if we had trained together for years. We encouraged each other through the process of giving compressions and breaths. We worked out a rhythm, and focused all our energy on meeting the needs of the moment. We are grateful for the other bystanders who assisted as well, in finding the AED, getting the emergency personnel, or just those who sat and said a prayer.
Looking back on that experience, we each have had a chance to reflect on what happened and what might have been. We are so grateful that we were there. Had circumstances been any different, he would most likely not be with us today.
It is clear to us why nurses and other professionals practice their skills repeatedly. In an emergency situation such as this one, that practice and training kicked in immediately, and we were able to stay calm and focused on what needed to be done. All our energy went into saving this man’s life. The emotions and reality of the seriousness of the situation didn’t occur until the incident was over. We were amazed to see so many people sitting and staring at the drama that had unfolded before their eyes. The image of nursing they formed that night must have been one of quick action, critical thinking, excellent knowledge, confidence, and leadership.
We think of the ways in which the nursing staff of Viterbo has shaped our lives, and we’re fortunate to have received an education that molds nursing graduates to provide excellence. We are excellent caregivers, educators, researchers, critical thinkers, and leaders.
The skills we learned in the Viterbo School of Nursing have helped us to become effective nurses and servant leaders. We are honored to say that we are Viterbo graduates, and so thankful for all of those there who have been a part of shaping our futures.
Vickie was traveling with her husband and daughter, who was on her college spring break. When the incident was over, her daughter immediately gave her a big hug and said, “You are a hero!”
Vickie just shook her head and said, “No, I am a well trained nurse.”