Experienced nurses save co-worker's life

Coming to the aid of another: It’s what nurses at the Good Samaritan Society do.

“It was scary,” Society nurse Michelle Durant, LPN, says referencing a recent situation at Good Samaritan Society - Algona in Iowa. “August 3rd (2021) will always be embedded in my brain."

Breathing life back into a co-worker and friend takes the job to a new level.

“My next memory was waking up in the hospital,” Society CNA Gail Smith says.

'They said I died'

Called upon in a life-or-death situation, Michelle and Society clinical care leader Melissa Wolf, RN, didn’t hesitate.

“They said I died,” Gail says. “That’s the first time that ever happened in 35 years.”

Gail, a self-proclaimed epilepsy warrior, is fortunate that "first time" took place at the skilled-care center in Iowa.

During her shift in early August, Gail didn't feel right. While visiting with Michelle at the nurses’ station, she started seizing.

“Her eyes rolled to the back of her head and she started frothing at the mouth,” Michelle says. “At one point there was definitely no pulse. She wasn’t breathing or anything."

After helping Gail safely to the ground, Michelle called for help.

That's when Melissa came running down the hall.

“Panic mode sets in real quick and they were very calm,” Administrator Joe Bartolo says, remembering the nurses' lifesaving efforts.

The two took turns giving breaths and compressions in the small space.

"God's grace and God's everything helped us get through it," Melissa says about the moments before first responders arrived. "When they got here, she was breathing but not responsive enough.

So the ambulance came and took her.

"I think our quick response definitely helped Gail." Gail agrees.

“I love them,” she says. “If I would have been home, I would have been dead because my boyfriend didn’t know CPR."

'The DAISY award is a pretty big deal'

Thankful for a positive result, Joe is proud of his experienced team.

“To understand how calm they were and how they worked through that entire process the way they did, it speaks volumes to their character. All of our staff look up to them,” Joe says.

The dynamic duo’s quick action is bringing an award from the DAISY Foundation.

“I was like, ‘What?’” Michelle says about the honor. “As a young kid, that’s all I ever wanted to do is be a nurse and care for people. I can’t imagine being anywhere else."

Melissa adds, “The DAISY award is a pretty big deal in the nursing world, no matter what level of nursing you’re at. I was blown away by the honor, and the story that went with it, it tugs on your heartstrings a lot."

The recognition is a small token of appreciation.

“Sometimes rare that you get one nurse (a DAISY award) and we were fortunate to get two at the same time. Which is pretty cool,” Joe says.

'Beautiful ending'

Still recovering following surgery to prevent future seizures, Gail is full with hope.

“I can’t wait to get back to be with the residents. I miss them,” Gail says. “It says a lot about the team that they all work together knowing that I have it and that they’re willing to take care of me. They all watch out for me."

The mission to serve others runs deep in Algona.

“I went through about three years of really bad cancer and I probably shouldn’t be alive. For me to be able to save somebody else’s life," Michelle says. "God saved me for that reason. God saved me so I could save others."

The ordeal is bringing the group closer together, especially Michelle and Melissa.

“Doing CPR on someone was never on my nursing bucket list of things to do or accomplish. Knowing that I did it, I did it well. I did it with the best partner I could think of. When the outcomes come out the way they’re supposed to be, meant to be, it makes it a beautiful ending to a story that could have been totally different,” Melissa says.

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