Fast Friends: Rush U Colleagues Quick to Help Bystanders

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Beth-Anne Christopher, RN, CNL, didn’t think she would be staying at a wedding in September as long as she did, but she was having so much fun that she didn’t start collecting her belongings to leave until the DJ yelled “last call.”

One guest was particularly happy she decided to stick around a bit longer.

Just as Christopher started getting ready to leave, a man in his 50s fell to the ground on the dance floor, suffering a massive heart attack. Christopher, an assistant professor in the Department of Adult Health and Gerontological Nursing in the Rush University College of Nursing, was tapped on the shoulder by somebody who knows she is a nurse. Her instincts and training took over from there.

With the help of a cadence from the photographer, Christopher administered chest compressions for more than 20 minutes until the paramedics arrived and brought the man to a nearby hospital.

“A few days later, I came home from work and found flowers on my front step with a note from the man’s sister,” she said. “The staff at the hospital told her he wouldn’t be alive if not for the CPR.”

Recently, Christopher got another note from one of the man’s family members, this time his brother, expressing gratitude for keeping his brother alive.

She credits the CPR training she receives at Rush every two years, which is standard for clinicians. Christopher remembers hearing the voice of Karen Schneider, the CPR instructor in Nursing Professional Development at Rush, as she put her training into action.

Though she has been a nurse for more than 40 years, this was the first instance when she had to administer CPR outside of a hospital setting.

Timely Inconvenience

Earlier this past summer, Christopher’s longtime friend and colleague, Elizabeth Carlson, PhD, RN, administered CPR to a bystander for the third time in her career.

Carlson, professor and chairperson in the Department of Adult Health and Gerontological Nursing in the College of Nursing, was ready to leave the library she was visiting, but a landscaping truck was blocking the exit and delayed her departure by roughly five minutes. If not for the holdup, Carlson believes she would likely not have driven by an unconscious man on a sidewalk with his wife cradling his head.

Carlson pulled over, announced she was a nurse and started helping another man on the scene, who had already started administering CPR.

She did rescue breathing while he applied chest compressions until they both heard a cough and knew breathing had restarted. Soon after, the paramedics arrived, administered a shock and realized an arrhythmia was the cause of the man’s collapse.

Carlson helped the paramedics adhere a facemask and assisted with the intubation as they tried to stabilize his breath.

“I was able to help the paramedics, but I think I really assisted by explaining to his wife what was going on as the paramedics were doing different things,” Carlson said. “She wanted to hold his hand, but I told her it would be better to grab his foot so that she was not in the way of the help he was receiving.

“I talked to Beth-Anne about how we both performed bystander CPR over the summer. It’s pretty amazing that it happened to us both within the span of a couple of weeks. We are both glad our training allowed us to help.”