This past November, I was traveling out west to visit family. My mom and I had been on planes all day, and had just arrived at the Spokane airport in Washington around midnight. We were walking down to baggage claim, and we passed by an AED mounted on the wall. Now, I don't know about other nurses, but ever since nursing school
and CPR training, I have always, almost subconsiously, noted where the AED is in public places.
We continued to trudge on down to baggage claim, commenting to each other how tired we were and how we couldn't wait to get to my aunt's house to get some sleep. We rounded the corner, and as we were passing the security guard station, I happened to glance over and see and elderly gentleman standing at the corner.
I work on a med-surg/oncology floor, where our primary patient population is geriatric. I like to think my senses are "honed" when it comes to looking at an older person and knowing something is wrong. He was holding onto the wall and looking very confused; I looked down and noticed he had wet himself. My first thought was, where is is family? Is he here alone?
I began to approach him, and at that point, he began to stumble forward, and in the blink of an eye, he began to pitch forward. I lunged out to grab him, but not in time; he hit the floor and his head made a sickening "crack" against the concrete. I went down to my knees by him and turned him over. His lips and his ears were beginning to turn blue, his pulse was thready and weak, but his pupils were equal, he was conscious and talking to me.
At this point, three other people ran over to help (I think they had medical training of some sort, I never asked them, or found out their names). As they knelt to assist the elderly man, I jumped up and ran to get the AED. I felt in my gut that this was about to turn very bad.
As I ran, I felt my adrenaline take over. I grabbed the AED and raced back. My gut was right. In the few seconds I was gone, the man had stopped breathing and lost his pulse. The woman and one of the men had begun CPR. I still had my purse over my shoulder and my coat on, and my mom, unbeknownst to me, grabbed my purse and pulled my coat off my back. I knelt by the victim, and touched the man performing compressions on the shoulder and asked if he wanted me to take over. Anyone who has done CPR knows that even just a minute or two of this work is exhausting.
I took over, feeling the man's bony chest under my hands. I began compressions, with the mantra of "staying alive, staying alive" playing in my head as I had been taught in class. The man and I continued to switch off as the woman performed rescue breathing. It seemed to last forever, but it was only about 5 minutes before paramedics arrived to take over.
I got up as they told us to clear out, my arms and chest burning and breathing hard. I stepped away from the team, as two women approached me and said quietly "bless you for working on him". My mom and I stood there for a minute, but there was nothing else we could do, so we continued on to collect our bags. The whole time I felt like crying, thinking, he was someone's grandpa, someone's dad, just here to visit for the holidays.
I don't know what the outcome of the situation was, whether he made it or not, but I pray every day that he did. It's something I'll remember until the day I die. I also thank God every day for making me a nurse.