There Were no Good Samaritans: Perform CPR in Strange Places

This article discusses how nurses and other individuals, not just health care workers can save lives no matter where they are located. It gave examples of how two graduate nurses attempted to perform CPR on an unresponsive victim while riding on a New York City train from downtown Manhattan to the Bronx. A similar incident also occurred on an air flight and one of the same nurses who was on the train was prepared to take action again just like a soldier. Nurses Announcements Archive Article


There Were no Good Samaritans: Perform CPR in Strange Places

This incident occurred many years ago when I lived in New York City. I resided in the Bronx and was actually preparing for the state board examination (NCLEX) so I attended a review course with my friend. The course lasted for one solid week, therefore every day my friend and myself rode the train to down town Manhattan where the review course was being taught, and this was a very rigorous course presented by a very dynamic teacher.

One afternoon as we boarded the train that was heading for the Bronx the train was very crowded as usual because it was after 5 p.m. We rode for a long time before we managed to find an available seat. Tired and drained from the all-day drill of the review class, ES and myself were grateful to have this seat, as our destination was far away. We quickly sat down, and oh what a relief that was from swinging back and forth in the moving train.

Unfortunately, it was not before long that the train conductor came running back and forth franticly and asking if there was a or a doctor on the train. We knew right away that something must have happened. We looked at each other and said "let's go and see." We walked and ran almost to the end of the train following behind the conductor of the train. Moving from car to car in a moving train is not the safest thing to do. He works with company, while we are only passengers. Everyone was giving us the stare as if these two young girls are crazy but we braved it out. I must admit that I was a bit scared to go from car to car on the train because there was a space between cars that you had to cross over.

Finally, we made it to the car where a gentleman, perhaps in his late fifties and dressed in a navy blue suite was laying down slumped over in the seat, color pale grey and draining secretions from the mouth. His skin was cold, lips cyanotic and he was not breathing. There was no pulse found in this individual in a moving train. That was great cause for concern. We loosened the neck tie and, as I said, there was no pulse. On lookers in that car on the train did not attempt to do anything even if they were CPR trained. Sad!!!! In New York the fear of lawsuit was very rampant, therefore, pray that nothing happens to you on the street, they will pass by on the other side just like the priest and the Levite guys in the story of the Good Samaritan in the Bible. I thought the Good Samaritan law protect you when you render aid or do something in good faith.

ES and myself asked for help to perhaps place him on the floor of the train to attempt CPR because he was a very large guy and we were two tiny nurses, but no one was willing to help. Everyone was afraid to be sued or perhaps afraid of the deceased body. Because we could not get him positioned on his back we unfortunately could not attempt to perform CPR - KISS OF LFE. The conductor looked at us and we looked at him. He remarked you are not able to help; Is he gone? Reluctantly we said he must have collapsed for some time and no one noticed it because his body was a bit rigid a sign that he had deceased.

We left that car of the train and went back to our seat feeling very helpless but also saddened that there were no good Samaritans on board. If there were, this man probably would have survived. We continued our journey home that afternoon but could not speak to each other until we got off the train after reaching our destination. It took a long time to overcome this tragic experience. The lesson that I learned was never be afraid to offer help because you could be a good Samaritan and the next hero.

ES and I became very good friends and we decided that we would use this experience to always help people whenever we can. She became a nurse practitioner and I became a school nurse. Before separating and going in different directions, I must say that we were present on as many codes as possible in the hospitals. We helped to save many, many lives and we told our story to many people and encouraged them not to be afraid to give a helping hand because the law will protect them.

Today, I do not know what happened to ES. I must have lost track of her because I moved away to Texas and she remained in New York. Here in Texas I practice school nursing, and I am always CPR certified but also a CPR instructor. I teach both children and adults CPR. I am in charge of the Emergency Response Team at my school, and I even teach CPR at church in the Pathfinders Club. This excitement and passion to save lives and give aid must have begun a long time ago when I decided that I would become a nurse, which was my childhood dream. The incident on the train just brought out the passion more that was within.

This must be part of my destiny because I had a repeat of a similar incident but this time it was on the air plane while we were in flight a similar thing happened. We heard a baby crying which sounded like a cry for help because I was dozing off and I was awakened by the cry. The next voice I heard was that of the flight attendant asking for a nurse or a doctor on the plane. My husband who was wide awake nudged me and said are you going? They are asking for a nurse or a doctor. I jumped out of my seatbelt and rushed towards the back of the plane. This time there were Good Samaritans on board. A physician got to the scene before me and took care of the situation.

I am very thankful that other Good Samaritans exist who will answer the call anywhere and anytime. We know that time is very critical when someone stops breathing because there is only a very small window of opportunity - just about seven precious minutes that will make a difference. As nurses, sometimes I feel like we are solders. We have a battle to fight - saving lives and we must answer the call day or night, in the air or on land. If we can all remember the story of the great Florence Nightingale as she worked relentlessly with the wounded soldiers from the Korean War. If today we would have more dedication like that, healthcare would be supreme, and many of our battles against illness and disease would have been won in the 21st century.

Today, I encourage everyone to take a stand in the battle and break down the barriers to healthcare so that as many as possible will enjoy that state of mental, physical, and social well being according to the World Health organization (WHO) that is the definition of health. Be vigilant and be compassionate, and you should always have an inner passion for what you do.

Thanks for reading.

Please let me know what you liked or didn't like about my article.

Have you had a similar experience?

What are you passionate about?

How were you inspired?

Enkwanta RN, BSN, MPH is now a practicing school nurse at a school district in Houston Texas. I have 30 years of nursing experience, a passion in saving lives, and I am pursuing a doctoral degree in Health Care Administration.

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1 Article; 942 Posts

Actually, one of the things I learned in Psych that stood out to me was that the more people are around, the less likely anyone is to come forward to help. It seems that everyone seems to think that someone else will take care of the problem.

I remember finishing my cpr /first aid class and I am always slightly afraid that someone will actually need my help (Pre nursing student here) and I won't remember what to do.

Very relevant to this topic, people don't have to have CPR certification to perform CPR or hands only CPR. It's very important. I work in a CICU and how long ppl did or didn't do CPR seems to me like one of the biggest indicators of survival.


2,228 Posts

QUOTE "If we can all remember the story of the great Florence Nightingale as she worked relentlessly with the wounded soldiers from the Korean War." QUOTE

Florence Nightingale died in 1910.

The Korean War 1950-1953.

The Crimean War 1853-1856.


1 Article; 2,675 Posts

Specializes in ICU, LTACH, Internal Medicine.

From my experience of anaphylaxis in public places, there never was a shortage of big and strong ones willing to push with all their mights indefinitely but hardly anyone willing to discharge EpiPen. Probability to run into someone who can access and fix airways ( at least support the jaw) is even less.

Compressions are usually unnecessary in this situation and so quite a few of the former folks were, to say the least, shocked when the unfortunate object of their heroic efforts less than politely asked them to please stop break her ribs. (nevertheless, I made special effort to find these people and thank them).

I personally do not think that in the situation OP described everyone got scared so much because of risk of being sued. Older person with oral/nasal secretions hanging all over ( many people are scared of bodily fluids exposure) and three people nearby, none of them behaving assertively and with enough confidence and directness) would discourage many laypeople from participation. If there were someone able to take a clear lead, clean the field and manage situation, the result might have been looking differently.


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Specializes in Critical Care.

There scared of shooting the epi pen into their own finger!! Seen that before!

Specializes in Emergency.

I grew up in the city (lower east side) and I doubt very much the lack of help came from fear of being sued. Not stepping in to help is a time honored tradition in NYC. Google Kitty Genovese.

JustBeachyNurse, LPN

1 Article; 13,952 Posts

Specializes in Complex pedi to LTC/SA & now a manager.

It's unlikely that cpr would have saved this man. Field cpr has a very low success rate. Stopping the train and calling 911 may have given the man a chance as early defibrillation and EMS activation/early acls is more successful than cpr alone.

I think the stiffness and visible secretions were more likely a deterrent than fear of lawsuits. Perhaps lack of knowledge of cpr depending on the year of this posted scenario, calling 911 even by the conductor could have gotten verbal cpr instructors from the dispatcher. A physician couldn't have made a difference without a code cart & defibrillator. Activating EMS rather than dangerously running through train cars seeking a physician may have made a difference. Risking your own life is not always necessary. Scene safety is primary. A dead Good Samaritan does no one any good.

And you may wish to edit your post as Florence Nightingale was dead for several decades at the time of the Korean War. ;)

Specializes in Inpatient Oncology/Public Health.

I do know of a ridiculous lawsuit brought against a physician who helped someone in this state, although not in the City. But I agree that it was probably too late for CPR anyway in this case. Probably no AED on board? Or protocol for emergency stop?


22 Posts

Specializes in MED-SURG Certified.

It is a very tragic thing to be in a place where you could be sued for trying to help. Yes, I remembered an article in the news when I was in high school about a Samaritan who tried to provide CPR on a gentleman and in the process saved his life but ended up in the hospital for broken ribs. The patient sued and won and, I'm sure, forever caused the Samaritan to never help a single soul from then on. However, juts because of a couple of nuts in society, we shouldn't forget our nature of human compassion- to do whatever we can to help and, yes, accept the results. Anyone can be a Good Samaritan, not just nurses.

One thing about that Good Samaritan story in the Bible- in the culture during that time, the Good Samaritan would have been beaten, stoned and even killed for what he did but he didn't care. He helped that Jew because he cared despite the risks. We should help, no matter what- because we care.


70 Posts

Specializes in Hospital, Foot Nurse, NRSNG Educator.

This was an an awesome story, and I have sent it to one of my Nursing Students, I remember her proudly and fondly ! I know she made it through school, and while as a student on her day off jumped to the aid of a neighbor and responded perfectly, and she did the almost impossible.... and saved a mans life in a dire situation such as this.... ! I have encouraged her to ad her story to this,.... I hope she does with great pride, that we will all share with her !

I remember, a situation on a quiet not to busy Sunday morning, an MVA, we came upon in a large intersection in Orlando ! On our way home from Church, my family loaded in our van.... it had JUST happened, cars steaming and smoking, horns blaring, glass and metal scattered in the middle of the road... everyone else... a standstill. I yelled to my husband, "Pull over" I had no idea what I would find, nor the condition of the folks in the vehicles... and what on earth was I going to do ??? (hadn't even entered my mind yet)... but I highballed it over to the vehicles... within minutes... seconds really, people all scrambling to the aid as well, and I realized I had others with me everyone was assisting, it was such an adrenalin rush, and things happened in split seconds, before I knew it we had everyone out, and everyone was ok.... minutes later police ambulance etc.... so much of it seems lost in a fog.... I barely remember ..... BUT I remember walking back to our van... my family just amazed, stunned... "WOW MOM !" .... but I didn't think twice.... ! I just "DID".... I am an LPN, worked in ORMC, and DISNEY NURSE.... but thankfully at that moment, that time, could do something... if there was something I needed to do, I was there to do it.

It may not be the case another time, and thankfully everyone was ok.... but I am glad I did.


57 Posts

People who know CPR may become so fearful that they do not go into 'adrenalin drain,' instead it is the opposite reaction. "Fear may paralyze people's thought process and action. It was only on 2/16/15 my school district had CPR review for all district nurses and the nurse that I partner with told a story how a lady (parent) collapsed and when she did CPR no one came forward to help her. Instead, every one stool by and watched her did it. This individual did survive went for further medical care but died later. Now, sine last year with all the school shootings, we have an emergency response team and individuals have assigned roles to play. Hopefully, they will overcome their fears.

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