By Miguel Amante, Communications Coordinator
When faced with a life-or-death situation, one split-second reaction can be all it takes to save a life. And in a hospital setting,these instances can happen at any time.
For Millicent Shewraj, a Registered Practical Nurse in Inpatient Unit 2-3, it was a regular weekday morning.
“It happened when a client was eating breakfast,” she recalls. Unit 2-3 is a complex care inpatient unit for individuals with schizophrenia and related disorders, and its patient population is comprised of people of all ages, backgrounds, and stages of recovery.
“I was just finishing my morning report when I was alerted to something going on with a client. This client tends to eat fast, and he had put too much food in his mouth. I turned around to look and there he was in front of the nursing station… he was clutching, kind of in a panicked state, holding his throat and chest area, so I started to do the Heimlich maneuver, which was not successful because he kept moving about. I moved him to a chair and continued the Heimlich but it was not successful.”
Staff were busy all morning in the unit, but Millicent knew that she had to act swiftly and decisively.
“[The client] went unconscious, his face turned blue, and I moved him to the floor with the assistance of another client who held his head… and the first thing that came to mind was to start CPR,” she said.
“In my mind as I kept doing it, all I was thinking, ‘Please God, let this work!’.”
At that point, two doctors and fellow nurses arrived for support, and a Medical Emergency code (Code Blue) was called, but Millicent was entirely focused on the client. “I knew I had good support around me but I didn’t even know who called the code. I just continued to do CPR. All I could think about was Breathe… breathe.”
“As I was administering CPR I remembered from training that if a person isn’t responding, it helps to get a familiar voice to talk to them. I’ve known this client for many years so I started talking to him, saying ‘Come on, you’ve got to breathe! Breathe for me, you can do it!’. And as I kept pumping, I felt a pulse. There was a pulse! He moved, and I turned him over to the recovery position.”
And thanks to her quick thinking, a potential disaster was averted.
“It was a scary thing, I was exhausted, I was shaking, and when I finally was able to relax, I asked how long I was doing it for. It felt like forever, and I learned that I had been doing CPR for seven minutes. We’ve had instances where people were choking, but I wasn’t the one who performed CPR, and this is actually the first time I’ve done CPR in a real situation. We do the refresher courses, we do the practice, and we know what to do in theory, but we don’t often get to put practice into action.”