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Fast-acting nurses save heart-attack victim during Bainbridge ferry sailing

Seattle Cancer Care Alliance nurses Sharon Rockwell and Annie Braddock jumped into action to save a man who had a heart attack on the Bainbridge ferry last week.  - Photo courtesy of Katie Carroll
Seattle Cancer Care Alliance nurses Sharon Rockwell and Annie Braddock jumped into action to save a man who had a heart attack on the Bainbridge ferry last week.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Katie Carroll

The Friday afternoon ferry commute got even more traumatic last week when a man who was suffering a heart attack was resuscitated by two Puget Sound area nurses who happened to be on board.

Sharon Rockwell and Annie Braddock, two Seattle Cancer Care Alliance nurses, quickly came to the aid of a male passenger who had collapsed on the 6:20 p.m. sailing from Seattle to Bainbridge Island.

“A woman from the port side started screaming that she needed medical attention,” explained Rockwell.

“I usually sit with my nurse buddies at a four-top table in the galley area, we had just sat down and the vessel was getting ready to shove off, and I said to Annie, ‘Let’s go!’” Rockwell recalled.

Upon checking the man’s vitals they found no pulse and immediately began CPR.

“We got there in about five seconds,” Rockwell said.

“It’s a natural reaction for a nurse when somebody screams for help. It’s all part of the training,” she said.

While attempting to revive the collapsed man, the two nurses quickly deduced that he was experiencing a heart attack and took the necessary steps.

“When you come across somebody in distress, you’re doing a quick once-over,” Rockwell explained. “Is he choking? Is it a seizure?”

“We knew right away this man was having a heart attack. He was losing color in his face; I felt for a pulse and he had none,” she said.

Using the automated defibrillator provided by the ferry crew, the nurses were able to reestablish the man’s pulse and get him breathing again.

Rockwell was fast to credit the help of others in the rescue.

“The ferry workers are nothing short of fantastic,” she said. “They brought everything we would ever need over to us; it was all at our fingertips.”

As frightening and intense as the experience may have been for the gathering crowd, Rockwell said that the emotional rewards of helping another person in need are why she became a nurse in the first place.

“I could not get over how that man would not take his eyes off of me,” she remembered. “He asked me if he was dreaming, and that’s when you see the true spirit of nursing, comforting him and telling him what had happened to him.”

The man was taken by an ambulance to a nearby hospital when the ferry docked at the Bainbridge terminal and at last report was in a stable condition.

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