It was a warm, sunny day in Key West, Florida. I was just about to bite right into my juicy Hogfish sandwich when suddenly, there was a screech with a loud bang in the distance.
“Someone HELP!” a man yelled in the distance.
My mother looked down the pathway. A woman had crashed her moped into a telephone pole. The bright red blood oozing from her head glistened in the sunlight as the waves knocked around the beach, drowning out her cries.
I put my sandwich down and stood up. Both of my parents turned to look at me but I was already gone. I had jumped over the 3 foot fence that divided the restaurant from the parking lot. I soon realized I was running towards the woman who lay on the ground. “No cars, no fire, no glass,” I said to myself assessing the scene. The moped lay next to the pole where the woman crashed; the woman lay but 5 feet away. This was a highly unusual place for me to be taking care of someone in an emergency situation since I was used to the hospital setting. Pretty soon I was kneeling beside the woman covered in blood.
“My name is Sara and I am a nurse,” I managed to huff out. I was clearly out of breath from jumping that fence and a bead of sweat already began to run down my temple. My adrenaline was kicking in at that point. This woman had a clear open laceration to the frontal part of her head. She nodded her head. An additional man was knelt beside her.
A crowd was gathering. I made sure to look directly at an individual who offered to help and pointed at them. “Go grab the AED. Find me a pair of gloves and a towel,” I croaked. I had no supplies here. No ambu bag, no gloves, no IV start kits… what was I to do? I noticed a waiter from the restaurant dialing a number. Emergency 911 I bet. I thought back to my training and began to go through my emergency medical training checklist.
“Tell me your name,” I started, making sure to keep eye contact with the woman. As the woman told me her name I was checking her radial pulses. Weak and thready but they were there bilaterally. The woman’s breathing increased. The tachycardia and shock were setting in. “I need you to keep talking to me.” I reached for her hand without diverting my gaze. “I-I am going to ask you questions and I am going to stabilize your bleeding until the paramedics get here. Tell me what happened.” Her eyes stayed locked in on mine and she started to talk.
As the woman talked, I went through my training: assess what I could and obtain the objective and subjective information with little resources. I went through head shape, laceration depth, blood loss, look at the pupils, cognitive orientation, pain, breathing pattern, additional trauma sites, broken bones… The gloves are here, good! I carefully placed the gloves on my hands and examined her head. The bleeding was profuse, and the laceration was big enough to put a golf ball in it. The blue towel that someone provided me soaked up the warm blood while I applied pressure.
After 10 minutes the emergency squad came. I provided what little information I could and stepped back. They were there now and could take care of this woman better than I could at this point. I was just the initial scene stabilizer.
After the emergency medical team loaded the woman into the truck, I was approached by the manager of the restaurant. “I never seen anyone just jump in to help someone like that!” she bellowed. I shrugged and smiled. “I think sometimes as a nurse it’s just instinct,” I said with a toothy grin.
I continued to wonder about that woman for quite some time. Was she ok? Did she remember any of it? Did I do everything I could? Then I thought back to the manager and her comment. Why do we do it? Why do we jump in during emergencies?
Here’s the thing: emergencies are scary. Yes, everyone has a right to be terrified once or ten thousand times in their life. I could have froze right there in my spot and panicked. I could have ignored the frantic calls asking for help. However, it is in those times when we need to have the ability to step up and face the challenge in front of us. I remained calm and level headed in a situation that would have went south quickly.
You are a warrior. Use your strength to pave a way for others and lead by example. Help those who need the help. Be the one to seize the situation and don’t hold back. Remember your training from nursing school and take action. Commit to challenging yourself and enhancing your skills. Believe that you can and will succeed with whatever you put your mind to. Who knows, you may need to save someone’s live one day when you least expect it. Every day I have the privilege of serving the public and saving lives, and I know I am going to continue to look out for others and jump in when needed.