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Ready for Anything: Four Risk Nurses Assist During an Airport Emergency

Jun 21 2022

In the profession of risk management, nurses learn to identify potential risks and address them. This state of constant preparedness recently allowed four of our risk nurses play the role of heroes at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.

Kathy Tomcho, Beth Pulley and Tammie Rizer (pictured above, right together) serve in our Hampton Roads market. They were traveling for work with Linda Rodriguez (pictured above, left), a senior risk manager, who also resides in Virginia.

The foursome had just finished attending several days of Bon Secours risk and insurance meetings and were awaiting their return flights at the airport. It was then that Linda noticed a traveler being attended to on the floor.

“Airport personnel were hurrying over and it appeared to be a medical emergency,” she recalls. “I was unsure if the traveler had just passed out or had a different medical emergency happening. My first impulse is always to see if anything is needed.”

Linda alerted her fellow nurses, who immediately sprung to action while airport personnel called 911.

“The four of us were first to respond and stay with the traveler,” Kathy explains. “She was lying on the floor, going in and out of consciousness.”

Kathy and Tammie assessed the passenger, who during her moments of consciousness shared that she was traveling alone and had been feeling ill for a few days.

“She looked very pale and could not seem to focus,” Tammie says. “I asked her name and asked her to tell us what was going on.”

Tammie then noticed the passenger’s pulse was weaking and her breathing was becoming erratic.

“I put my stern nurse voice into play and told her to slow her breathing, talking to her to get her to focus and breathe according to my voice rhythm.”

The passenger lost consciousness and when Tammie could no longer detect a pulse, Kathy began performing chest compressions.

“We got her back after about five pushes,” Tammie recalls.

Upon returning to consciousness, the passenger told her caregivers that she thought she was going to die. The nurses attempted to encourage her by having her concentrate on her breathing. Although the traveler would lose consciousness several more times, she managed to keep a pulse.

After approximately 10 minutes, Beth, who had stayed behind to watch everyone’s belongings, noticed the arrival of reinforcements.

“I alerted the team when I could see EMS through the window at the gate,” she shares. “The ambulance arrived fairly quickly even though it always seems longer when you are waiting for help to arrive.”

Form there, our nurses handed off care to EMS and police upon their arrival. However, this was not before Tammie performed one more act of risk assessment.

“I looked in the traveler’s bag and found medications that I showed to EMS and handed to the police officer. I told him these needed to accompany her to the ED.”

Reflecting on the event, Beth remembers the appreciation the four risk nurses were shown by airport personnel, including talks of offering a token of appreciation from the airline.

“We told them that was not necessary, and we were glad to help,” Beth says. “The female attendant at the gate had tears in her eyes as she thanked us. We knew we were in the right place at the right time.”

For Linda, the incident proved affirming.

“I remembered why I love nursing and the team I work with,” she shares.

And Kathy notes the experience taught her how important it is to “live our ministry’s mission of being ‘good help to those in need’ no matter where you are.”

All four nurses agree it took a team approach to navigate the emergency, and even joke about the form roles can take.

“I was left literally holding the bags,” Beth chuckles about guarding the others’ belongings.

Remarkably, the incident in early May marks the second time Tammie has responded to an emergency at an airport while traveling.

“I am thankful to be used in this manner, but I am thinking of driving the next time,” she says with a laugh.

These four risk nurses not only made a difference in the life of a stranger experiencing a medical emergency, but also left an impression on those who witnessed their quick-thinking actions.

“A young passenger sitting next to me on the flight asked if I was one of the responders,” Kathy recalls.

She says she took the question as yet another opportunity to put her work hat on.

“I did try to recruit her into a nursing career,” she confesses.

Learn about the health care services we offer at Bon Secours.

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