When he stepped out of his meeting at PeaceHealth’s main office in Vancouver, Washington to take a call, Dan Kelly heard a commotion in an adjacent conference room that immediately set off his nurse’s radar.
“It was kind of that universal ‘Are you OK?’ ‘Are you alright?’ recalled Kelly, chief nursing officer at PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center at RiverBend in Springfield, Oregon. (Kelly is pictured below in striped tie.)
He looked in and saw a man slumped over in his chair — unresponsive. He stepped inside, introduced himself as an RN and asked if anyone knew CPR.
No one did. He felt for a pulse; it was erratic and then it stopped altogether. With help, he lowered the man to the floor and began CPR while someone else in the room -- all were employees of another firm that shares the building with PeaceHealth -- called 9-1-1.
Nursing adrenalin kicks in
“I probably haven’t done CPR in 10 years,” said Kelly, who early in his career was an intensive care and emergency department nurse in Texas. “But your nursing adrenalin and instincts kick in — you turn everything else off and just do what needs to be done.”
After about seven minutes, PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center Chief Operating Officer Robert Blake — who’d been at the same conference as Kelly and is also an RN — ducked out to make a call and saw what was going on. He quickly joined Kelly and the two took turns until paramedics arrived, about 12 minutes after they’d been called. (Blake is pictured below in glasses.)
“They got him hooked up on a defibrillator, and I stepped out,” Kelly said.
Blake said they weren’t optimistic about the man’s odds. “While we were doing CPR, his breathing was what we would describe as at end of life,” he said. “His color was getting dusky right before the paramedics got there.”
Extended support and comfort
About 20 minutes later the man was taken out on a gurney and rushed by ambulance to the hospital. A member of the EMS team told Kelly and Blake that it wasn’t looking good.
“But then I learned the following week that he survived and was recovering, and I was so happy to hear that,” Kelly said. “It had just stuck in my mind all week.”
Marla Turner, a Learning and Leadership Development training consultant who’d been facilitating the conference, witnessed the last few minutes of the incident. She noted that Theresa Edmonson, system director of Spiritual Care and Mission Integration, gathered the shaken employees in a conference room to provide support and comfort.
“There are so many little things that came together and led to this wonderful outcome,” Turner said. “Because it was a holiday week, the conference rooms weren’t being used that much. We were the only other people in the area aside from the other firm's group. If this had happened any earlier in the day, we would have been in the auditorium with the doors closed and would have had no idea what was happening. If Dan hadn’t stepped into the hall when he did, we wouldn’t have known someone needed help.”
She added: “I know that what Dan and Robert did was natural for them and was ‘all in a day’s work,’ but to me — and to the man who needed them — they were heroes.”