Ava May Giatras

Submitted 2022-08-27

While describing a vacation I took to visit my family in Greece, listeners do not usually expect a story of how I saved a life. The sparkling blue waters of Zakynthos island were glistening in the sunlight as I sat overlooking the ocean, enjoying my lunch. I noticed an older couple walking along the water, where some slippery rocks lay. Suddenly, I heard a woman’s voice urgently exclaim, “βοήθεια, βοήθεια!”. My head whipped around as this is the Greek phrase for, “help, help!” and I realized the older gentleman was now drowning in the ocean. At this moment, I was faced with a decision to make. In Greece, there are no lifeguards on the beaches. I thought to myself: if I do not do something, who will? The budding healthcare provider in me knew if I did not take action to save this man, he would have drowned.

Quickly, I jumped onto the balcony of the restaurant and dove into the ocean, relying on my fifteen years of competitive swimming to propel me to him as quickly as possible. Once I reached this man, I grabbed him from under the arms and began to swim both of us to safety. As we reached the shore, I noted the long scar on his chest, signaling to me he had previously undergone some type of heart surgery. He remained unresponsive when I brought him to shore, and I began performing CPR. As the paramedics rushed towards us, I was proud to have a part in this man living another day. While this was my first experience saving a life, it would not be my last.

When I first stepped through the doors of the hospital, I was a resolute student determined to log patient care hours. Beep. Beep. Beep. The sporadic sound of the oxygen monitors could be heard down the hall. I heard, “His O2 is dropping to 76!” and was immediately shoved to the ground as nurses charged down the hall. The team employed at the residential home consisted of skilled nurses, child care workers, an occupational therapist, and one social worker. My position at the long-term care facility was to tend to the daily needs of children, ages 3 to 22, with medical disabilities. All of the children are nonspeaking and use wheelchairs as their mode of transportation. In addition, they are under the care of child protective services. I had some previous volunteer experience with children who were nonspeaking, yet this was an entirely new world of feeding tubes, hourly medications, and adaptive equipment. Step inside my mind on my first day at this new job: I was unaware experiences at the hospital would change the trajectory of my life.

As I grew during my time at the hospital, I eventually earned the responsibility of administering medications and being in charge of care for all patients in the facility. One shift, a resident was having a series of tonic-clonic seizures. In order to prepare myself, I went into the medication room to have the correct rescue medication on hand if administration was needed. After administering the rescue medication, the patient became unresponsive, and it was time for me to perform CPR. I thought to myself: if I do not do something, who will? I instructed a colleague to call 911 and grabbed the AED. With the weight of a young child’s life on my shoulders, there was no easy way to prepare myself before performing life saving techniques. Yet as a healthcare worker, I knew it was my duty to take action.

Upon reflection, there are two key elements I have utilized when performing life saving techniques: remaining confident and calm. As both a healthcare worker and student, I am fortunate enough to be educated with CPR/First Aid/AED training. In and out of the healthcare field, many scenarios where one is required to perform CPR will catch them off guard. Trusting in these training sessions and maintaining composure in stressful situations allowed me to be successful when it comes to saving a life. My advice to other students entering the field would be to pay attention during basic training. It may appear trivial at first, but retaining this knowledge and recognizing what to do in high-pressure situations will help a future healthcare provider manage stress. In today’s adapting healthcare setting, educating healthcare providers at all levels in basic life support is a quintessential secret of success. Ultimately, preparing oneself to perform life saving techniques begins with answering this essential question: if I do not do something, who will?

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