Friday, December 6, 2013

Always on duty



Responding quickly to life and death situations is a part of daily life as a nurse at the MGH. However, saving lives is sometimes as simple as being in the right place at the right time. This holiday season, two individuals will be able to celebrate because of the courageous efforts of two nurses.

From trick-or-treater to lifesaver
“You definitely go into autopilot. Your training takes over and in the back of your mind you are thinking, ‘I am a trauma nurse at the MGH. I need a defibrillator and I need it now,’” says Lisa Marie Wellen, RN, MGH Emergency Services.

Every Halloween, it is tradition for Wellen, her husband and their three children to dress up and trick or treat in the busy downtown section of South Boston. “At 5:30, the place is packed with little kids and police are at each intersection directing traffic,” says Wellen.

This year, while waiting to cross a street, Wellen and her husband watched a car slam into a city bus and then hit a telephone pole. “A man had a heart attack right before our eyes,” she says. “My husband, who is an EMT, ran over first and I followed. He started compressions while I opened up his airway.”

The fire department arrived before the paramedics, and Wellen, still in her Halloween costume, used a defibrillator to restart the heart of the 61-year-old. By the time paramedics arrived, the man was awake with a pulse.

“It was pretty scary to think about what might have happened,” says Wellen. “This was an intersection full of kids. He lived just two blocks from the accident; if he had made it home, he may have been alone.”

Wellen later learned that the patient was transported to another Boston-area hospital with a 100 percent occlusion of the main artery to his heart. In a recent phone call with Wellen, he expressed his gratitude and said that, without her help, the outcome likely would have been much different. “We do CPR on people every day, but it doesn’t always work,” she says. “It was wonderful to hear that he was doing OK.”

A miraculous rescue on a morning run
On an early morning in July, Amanda Pike, RN, MGH Hematology/Oncology Unit, stepped out for a jog on Bedford’s rail-trail. What began as a quiet, relaxing run became a fight to save a life.

“I saw a man facedown in a path and a baby carriage knocked over,” she says. “The baby – his granddaughter – was crying but, thankfully, was safe. The man was unresponsive.”


CELEBRATING A SAVE: Pike, center, with Prentice and his granddaughter at the awards ceremony

Pike immediately called 911 while another jogger helped her turn the man over. “I could see his color wasn’t right, and I couldn’t find a pulse,” she says.

As Pike performed CPR, 65-year-old Bob Prentice’s color improved, and his breathing became more regular. However, it wasn’t until first responders arrived and used a defibrillator that his heart began to beat again.

“He has full function now,” says Pike. “He is walking, talking, and living life to the fullest. He’s so grateful for his granddaughter’s safety – and is just very, very appreciative.

Last month, at The Metropolitan Boston Emergency Medical Services Council Annual Region IV Awards Dinner, Prentice and his family presented Pike with an award for her actions and poise under pressure on the morning of July 25.

“It’s what we are trained to do,” says Pike. “This is my job. Just because it happened outside the hospital, it is no different.” 


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