In the right place at the right time

By Jane Palmer | 12/21/2017

Sigma member and paramedic rescue seriously injured man.

Christina Norris and Britney Schlifka

A nurse and a paramedic in the right place at the right time helped save the life of an accident victim in Hinsdale, Illinois, USA.

On 17 October, after a 13-hour shift as charge nurse at an immediate care center, Christina Norris, BSN, RN, drove east toward Interstate 294. While leaving a gas station, she saw a car swerve and a police officer turn on his patrol car’s emergency lights.

Her coworker, paramedic Britney Schlifka, 25, who had stopped behind the police car, saw a man lying face down in a pool of blood.

“Since it was extremely dark, I had the officer shine his flashlight on the man’s face,” Schlifka recalls, “but I still could not tell where the blood was coming from.”

The man’s breathing was gurgling and shallow, so she repositioned his airway. His right eye was closed, and the pupil of his left eye was dilated. He was not responsive to any stimuli. A short time later, Schlifka saw Norris, 34, running toward them. The accident victim had now stopped breathing, and they were unable to find a pulse.

“I still had my stethoscope around my neck, so I quickly listened for any cardiac activity,” Norris says. “Britney held c-spine and was able to maintain his airway. He had significant bleeding from what appeared to be severe head trauma. I started compressions, and the man began breathing but remained unconscious.”

An emergency medical services team arrived, placed the man on a stretcher, and transported him to Good Samaritan Hospital.

“Initially, I was in shock to have encountered this situation outside of the ED,” Norris says. “However, the training I have learned and practiced the past 14 years instinctively kicked in. Without having time to think, I jumped out of my car and started care.”

Schlifka, who also works for a fire department, typically arrives on accident scenes soon after they occur. In this case, the victim was fortunate that skilled responders were already nearby. “I was driving behind a police officer, and Christina was somehow watching from a nearby gas station,” Schlifka recalls. “When he stopped breathing and lost a pulse, Christina was there, and I wasn’t alone anymore.”

Norris and Schlifka later learned that the man’s car had stalled on the interstate. When he attempted to cross the street, he was struck by a vehicle. The driver fled the scene without stopping. Many cars had already passed without anyone stopping to help. The victim, a 45-year-old man from Chicago, survived.

A nurse for 14 years, Norris has worked primarily in emergency healthcare, including a position at a Level I trauma center in Chicago. She left the emergency department when she started the family nurse practitioner program at Lewis University in Illinois. She will graduate in May 2018.

Offering help is nothing new for Norris, who has volunteered for the Illinois Medical Emergency Response Team, Red Cross Disaster Action Team, and Red Cross Healthcare Team. She is certified in BLS, ACLS, PALS, TNCC, ENPC, and bereavement care.

Norris finds it rewarding to provide holistic nursing care, support, and compassion, whether by holding a patient’s hand, sitting with the family, being the patient’s advocate, or listening to the patient’s concerns.

Editor’s note: We learned about this heroic act from Terrence Norris, Christina’s husband, who wrote: “She is very humble and feels that she was just doing her job, but in a different location. This is where I disagree with her. Both she and her coworker went above and beyond their jobs and saved a man’s life.” We agree. Sigma member Christina Norris embodies our values of love, courage, and honor. RNL

Jane Palmer is assistant editor of
Reflections on Nursing Leadership.


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