The neighbors have been talking. At first, being the center of attention embarrassed me, but I've come to realize that what nurses do can be pretty special in other people's eyes.
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All the fuss began when I was driving through the neighborhood recently and passed two boys riding their bicycles and doing tricks. Glancing in my mirror, I saw one of them fall and land hard on the handlebar. I had to turn back.
As I stopped the car, the boy was running around panicked. He was bleeding so profusely that it looked like a hose was pumping blood from his upper thigh. I quickly applied manual pressure to the site to stop the bleeding.
I've seen a lot of blood in my day, but this was frightening. I told the boy, Tommy, that I was a nurse and I wanted him to lie down so I could stop the bleeding.
As other cars pulled up, I told the drivers to call 911. I sent the other boy to get a towel and he seemed grateful for the assignment. When the towel arrived, I pressed it to the wound while someone else helped remove Tommy's bloody jeans and shoes.
He asked me several times if he was going to die. I said no, I was positive that injuries like his could be fixed in an operating room. Fear filled his eyes; he needed to see nothing but confidence in mine.
When the ambulance arrived, I jumped in, still applying pressure. One emergency medical technician drove and another started an I.V. line. Tommy was covered with blood and showed signs of shock. He was taken to surgery and spent the night in the ICU. (He recovered uneventfully and was discharged a few days later.)
When I went home that day, my house was decorated with a banner and the neighbors were calling me a hero. I told them any nurse would have done the same things-stop the bleeding, calm the patient, and get someone to call 911.
In the future, when I teach parents and children about safety, I'll be sure to warn them about the danger of riding a bike without handlebar grips. The metal handlebar gored Tommy, removing muscle and other tissue from his thigh.
This event reminded me that so many nursing skills that are second nature to us seem remarkable to others. Even our most basic actions can change and possibly save lives-a reward that we sometimes forget.
People expect nurses to know how to handle an emergency. Regardless of your work setting, keeping your basic life support and first-aid skills current is a wise investment. You never know when someone will need them. Ask Tommy.
Cheryl L. Mee, RN,BC, CMSRN, MSN