Our Nurse of the Week is Navy Lt. Cmdr. Erika Schilling, a military nurse midwife who used her medical training to help save a man’s life during a Washington State Ferry trip. Schilling had spent the day at a museum with her two sons and was on the return trip home when she overheard another passenger frantically telling someone that a passenger needed immediate medical attention. She jumped to attention, performing lifesaving CPR on a complete stranger.
“I just happened to be there and heard that help was needed. I heard her on the phone saying, ‘This is an emergency.’ My ears went up.”
When Schilling was brought to the ill passenger, he was slumped over and didn’t appear to be breathing. Schilling immediately moved him onto the floor and began performing CPR while another passenger retrieved an Automated External Defibrillator (AED). She shared CPR duties with another passenger trained in basic life support skills for 14 minutes until the ferry docked and emergency medical responders took over, transporting the man to a nearby medical center.
Schilling is a military nurse midwife at Naval Hospital Bremerton in Washington state. She credits her 21 years of Navy and Nurse Corps training for allowing her to save a stranger’s life on a normal ferry ride while off duty. Schilling tells the Department of Defense, “I just happened to be there and heard that help was needed. I heard her on the phone saying, ‘This is an emergency.’ My ears went up.”
Once the man was safely in the hands of emergency medical responders, Schilling found out that the man and his wife were visiting the area. Schilling stayed with his wife and drove her from the ferry to the hospital. The man is reported to be safely recovering at home following the incident.
Schilling has since been awarded the Life Ring Award from Washington State Ferry, a certificate usually reserved for employees who respond to life-and-death emergencies or perform rescues. To learn more about Schilling’s lifesaving efforts, visit here.
Our Nurse of the Week is Erin Williamson, a nurse practitioner for MedNorth Health Center in Wilmington, NC, who has dedicated his career to helping people who have no other health care options. As the seventh of eight children in his family, Williamson experienced what it’s like for your income to dictate your access to quality health care.
With six older sisters and one younger brother, Williamson came to understand the hardships that come with raising a large family, but he loved growing up in a big family and decided to help others in similar situations. He started taking health occupations classes in high school and graduated with a Nursing Assistant certificate then joined the workforce straight away, which was an important goal after the hardships his family faced when he was a child.
Williamson tells StarNewsOnline.com, “I wanted to be a nurse practitioner serving medically underserved people. Ideally, lower-income people who have limited access to health care. It is the dream job that I’ve had since I was 16. Mainly because growing up poor we got to learn what it was like to have limited access to good health care. You don’t know how that feels unless you are in that situation where you’re treated differently.”
Williamson’s first health care job after high school was at a nursing center where he worked the midnight shift and later met his wife, Rachel. The couple later moved so that Williamson could attend the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. He graduated in 2004 with a degree in nursing, then moved back to Wilmington where he took a job on the adult inpatient surgical floor with New Hanover Regional Medical Center for five years while he worked on his master’s in nursing at University of North Carolina Wilmington.
At the end of his master’s studies, Williamson chose to complete his clinical training at MedNorth Health Center ,which receives federal grant funds from the US Department of Health and Human Services to provide primary and preventive health care services to medically underserved populations. Patients at the health center receive service regardless of their ability to pay with services designed to cover prenatal, pediatric, adolescent, adult, and geriatric life cycles.
Williamson knew immediately that it was the right place for him and he tells StarNewsOnline.com, “I liked the community health center because being downtown we get an interesting mix of homeless people, professors, other professionals that work downtown, and a lot of people who have no other place to go for healthcare.”
After completing his master’s degree in nursing in 2009, Williamson went straight from being a student to being a nurse practitioner at MedNorth where he has remained since. To learn more about Williamson’s path to becoming a nurse practitioner and helping the underserved find access to quality healthcare, visit here.
Our Nurses of the Week are Kyle Cook, 53, and Carla Saunders, 51, neonatal nurse practitioners at a children’s hospital in Knoxville, TN. After decades spent caring for infants, these two nurses recognized a major problem when they had six babies in the nursery at once suffering from substance withdrawal. After looking to experts for answers on how to treat these delicate patients, they discovered that no one yet had the answers, and became the experts themselves.
It was 2010 when Cook and Saunders began to see the effects of the opioid crisis themselves. The first time they realized that they had a problem was when they had six babies suffering at once, but that number quickly began to grow. Cook, 53, tells NPR.org:
“We couldn’t fix it; we couldn’t make these babies better. Little did we know that was the tip of the iceberg. We had 10, and then 15, and then, at one point, 37 babies in the NICU that were withdrawing. We were bursting at the seams.”
Unprepared and short-staffed, they knew they needed to find a new solution because their current practice wasn’t helping the inconsolable infants they were attempting to treat. They worked at a small children’s hospital, but knew that the problem they were facing was a representation of a greater substance abuse problem happening all over the US.
When they called across the country looking for experts to advise them on how to treat these special patients, they discovered that nobody had the answers. They were left to find the answers themselves, and wound up helping to establish one of the first treatment protocols for babies exposed to opioids and a program connecting mothers with treatment and therapy options.
To learn more about Cook and Saunders’ experience treating babies suffering from opioid withdrawal, listen to the full podcast below:
Our Nurse of the Week is Carol Fowler Durham, 63, a professor at the University of North Carolina (UNC) School of Nursing who was diagnosed with sepsis in 2010. She was in the middle of a faculty meeting when she began violently shaking, but she didn’t understand what was wrong at the time. Now seven years later and fully recovered, Fuller is helping raise awareness about sepsis, the deadly condition that nearly killed her.
When Durham began to feel symptoms of sepsis, she didn’t realize that her body had launched an attack on itself. Confused by the reaction she was having, she left her meeting and drove herself home. Her condition later worsened and her husband, Stephen, drove her to the emergency room where she was placed behind a long queue of patients.
By the time Durham was seen by staff in the emergency room, she had a high fever and chills which was enough to admit her. Staff still didn’t recognize what her symptoms meant, allowing her condition to worsen overnight. After her blood pressure plummeted, her medical team finally realized that she had sepsis and was moving into septic shock, a condition with a high mortality rate.
“Sepsis occurs when a massive immune response to a bacterial infection gets into the blood,” Durham tells People.com. “The condition can quickly cause tissue damage, organ failure, or death.” According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 1.5 million people get sepsis each year in the US and about 250,000 die from it.
Durham was finally taken to the intensive care unit where she received antibiotics to stave off her raging infection. She responded to the antibiotics and began to improve but doctors were never able to determine the cause of her sepsis. Now fully recovered, Durham has a passion to get the word out about the deadly condition and make medical professionals aware of how to recognize and treat sepsis.
Durham now speaks to groups around the country teaching health care audiences, publishers, medical simulation vendors, and others to recognize sepsis and how to fight it. Quick and proper intervention are key and Durham drives that message home every chance she gets.
To learn more about Carol Fowler Durham and her experience surviving septic shock and becoming an advocate for the dangerous condition, visit here.
Our Nurse of the Week is Joseph Bruno, 36, who was the nurse in charge of the trauma unit at University Medical Center (UMC) in Las Vegas, NV on Oct. 1 when Stephen Paddock opened fire on a concert crowd from his shooter’s perch on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel, ultimately killing 58 and injuring hundreds of others.
“I know that we did everything we could to save the men and women who came to us. I hope the families of the slain that passed in my unit can take comfort in that.”
Bruno recalls receiving a call from emergency dispatch around 10 pm informing him that there had been an active shooter on the strip and more than 20 critical patients were headed their way. He quickly mobilized the nursing and surgical staff, giving them what little information he had and warning that they would soon begin treating patients in very bad shape.
UMC’s emergency department began receiving their first wave of victims in non-emergency vehicles within 5 minutes of the dispatcher’s call. Thankfully many surgical staff were still on hand from treating earlier patients and were able to jump in and help as the shooting victims began to arrive. Patients continued to arrive until 4 AM with varying degrees of injuries. The most critical patients were rushed to operating rooms to have life-threatening abdominal injuries repaired surgically while others had tourniquets applied to control their bleeding or IV fluids and blood transfusions started.
Bruno tells the Las Vegas Review-Journal, “There were times when patients pleaded with us to help others first, that they could wait. The only time I’ve ever seen that happen before is in the case of a husband and wife or parents with children after a car accident. But these were people with horrific injuries telling us they could wait in line for treatment so complete strangers could have surgery first.”
The pain and sorrow of treating the victims that night is still ongoing for Bruno, but he emphasized that one message be delivered loud and clear: “I know that we did everything we could to save the men and women who came to us. I hope the families of the slain that passed in my unit can take comfort in that.”
To learn more about Joseph Bruno and his courageous acts as the nurse in charge of the trauma department at UMC in Las Vegas on the night of the worst mass shooting in modern US history, visit here.
Our Nurse of the Week is 24-year-old Montana Brown, a two-time childhood cancer survivor who recently began working as a nurse at the same hospital where she was treated. After being diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma at two years old, a rare type of childhood cancer of the connective tissue, Brown underwent a year of chemotherapy at the AFLAC Cancer Center in Atlanta, GA. Now she is working there as a staff nurse.
Brown’s parents encouraged her to have a normal life. After actively competing in gymnastics and cheerleading for years, Brown found out she had cancer again at 15 years old. She tells ABCNews.Go.com:
“I had just tried out for my high school cheerleading team. I actually ran a mile while I had cancer and had no idea…There weren’t symptoms but my mom and dad could tell that something was different about me and they knew that something was a little off.”
After being diagnosed for the second time, Brown went to the AFLAC Cancer Center every week for chemotherapy and radiation treatments. She also learned that she would have to stop gymnastics and cheerleading. However, the experience allowed her to realize a new calling. Brown decided that she wanted to become a nurse.
“The nurses here, as great as they were when I was 2 – from what my mom says – they were extremely loving and caring and compassionate. And, just the love they showed me and my family in our time of need just really helped me. It helped me want to become as kind and as caring and as compassionate as they were for me,” Brown recalled in an interview with ABCNews.Go.com.
After her encounters as a toddler battling cancer, and later as a high school student, pushed Brown to pursue a career in nursing, she went to nursing school specifically wanting to work in pediatric oncology. Now she is working as a nurse at the AFLAC Cancer Center where her dreams have come full circle. She hopes to be a source of hope and inspiration for children battling cancer in the same place where she became a survivor.
To learn more about Montana Brown and her decision to pursue a career in nursing after becoming a two-time childhood cancer survivor, visit here.