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  • Oliva Minzola, News Editor

Bloomsburg University Nurse Anesthesia Grad Student Saves Man's Life

On Wednesday, Feb. 19, a Bloomsburg University graduate student saved a man’s life in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. Rachel Hirsch, a 30-year-old Bloomsburg University Nurse Anesthesia graduate student from Elysburg, was standing in the lobby of The Woodlands Inn when she overhead shouting near the front desk.

“Someone call 911!” an unknown individual yelled.

Hirsch turned to find a 60-year-old man who, only moments before, had passed her on his way out of the hotel and was now lying unresponsive on the floor of the main entranceway. Oddly

enough, when she first noticed him walking towards the exit, she thought that he did not look so well.

She approached the man, named Tom, who was wearing a Woodlands shirt and was later identified as an employee. After examining him, she concluded that he was agonal breathing, which is an abnormal pattern of breathing that occurs when oxygen is unable to reach the brain.

After learning that Tom had no pulse, Hirsch began performing CPR. After approximately two or three minutes, she asked if the hotel had a defibrillator, to which the employees said no. When exhaustion started to set in, she then asked if anyone was CPR certified, to which she received no response.

Five or so minutes after starting CPR, an ambulance arrived. Tom was hooked up to an AED (automated external defibrillator), given oxygen and ventilated. He was shocked three times with the AED before he was taken to the hospital.

Hirsch had no way of knowing if Tom had survived. That is, however, until she told her class about the incident just days later and a fellow classmate, whose husband works in the ICU at Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center, notified Hirsch that Tom had, in fact, lived.

Hirsch decided to visit Tom on Feb. 26. She expected him to be intubated, on a ventilator and unresponsive. Instead, when she entered his room, he was sitting up in bed, drinking water, doing just fine.

“Hi, Tom. You don’t know me but I know you. I’m sure I don’t look familiar to you so I just wanted to introduce myself. I was actually at the Woodlands when you collapsed and I started performing CPR. I’m a student nurse anesthetist and I’m actually doing clinicals here at Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center. It just happened that I was at the right place at the right time,” said Hirsch to Tom.

“I just wanted to come see you, see how you were doing, and it looks like you’re doing really well,” said Hirsch.

Tom explained that he had a heart attack and thanked her for saving his life.

Hirsch was a critical care nurse for six years before going to anesthesia school and has been practicing CPR for the past ten years on both CPR manikins and patients in the adult intensive care unit. However, this was her first time performing CPR outside of the hospital setting.

Anyone who is interested in learning CPR can get certified and, like Hirsch, must get recertified every two years if they are interested in keeping up with their certification. Hirsch, as a healthcare professional, is required by law to get recertified.

Looking back on the incident with Tom, Hirsch is disappointed by the lack of assistance she received from employees and bystanders at The Woodlands Inn. Even after asking the employees – who the manager later said were CPR certified – for help, no one came forward. As a healthcare professional who understands the responsibility of being CPR certified, this frustrated Hirsch. She explained to the manager how, if you are capable of giving CPR, you should help when you are asked.

Nevertheless, thanks to the efforts of Hirsch, Tom survived. She encourages others to learn CPR because if a situation such as the one with Tom were to ever present itself, more individuals would be better prepared and capable of helping.

Original story published March 5, 2020 in the BU Voice.

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