It was a beautiful Saturday, and Kelsey Davis had burgers on her mind. The operating room nurse at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health was waiting with her mom for a table at Bub’s Burgers in Carmel on April 6 when she heard a commotion on the nearby Monon Trail.
Someone had crashed a motorized scooter and a crowd had gathered. Davis, thinking the rider was a teen, initially expected him to hop up after the fall, but then she heard raised voices calling for help. Davis ran over to find a man who appeared to be in his 40s collapsed on the ground, unresponsive. Someone called 911.
Another nurse who had happened upon the scene said she couldn’t find a pulse, so Davis didn’t waste any time.
“I didn’t know if it was a heart attack that caused the crash or if the crash affected something, but he was not breathing; he was unresponsive,” she said. “I knew the ambulance was coming, so I went off my training at Riley and started compressions.”
Despite her nursing background, Davis acknowledged later that it was the first time she’d done chest compressions on a human.
“I’ve only done them on mannequins in training,” she said.
In the operating room at work, she’s always surrounded by physicians or more senior nurses, so she’s never been called to do it. But she knew she could.
Her only hesitation at first was that she didn’t know what was wrong with the man. She knew only that he didn’t appear to be breathing, he wasn’t moving, and he was unconscious.
“Most people, if they get in a crash, they’re rolling around, moaning. He had a helmet on – that’s why I thought something had happened to cause the crash. Or maybe the crash knocked him out.”
But in that moment, how it happened didn’t matter. What mattered was making sure his heart was beating. That’s a message she wants to send to everyone, no matter your background or training.
“There’s no excuse not to know CPR; everyone should,” she said. “It’s not hard to do, and you really can’t hurt someone. You’re going to do more good than harm.”
Christopher Moore, a paramedic and educator in emergency cardiac care at IU Health Methodist Hospital, said if more people weren’t afraid to jump in to provide chest compressions in an emergency, survival rates would be much higher.
Hands-only CPR does not require rescue breaths. A person need only clasp one hand over the other and push hard and fast (about 100 times a minute) in the center of the chest, about 2 inches deep.
Just that morning, Davis had been showing her niece how to do CPR on her baby doll to the tune of “Staying Alive.” The disco song is a handy tool recommended by the American Heart Association to remind people how fast to perform chest compressions.
Davis estimates she did two rounds of compressions – totaling about 2 minutes – before the man started to come around and the ambulance arrived.
She asked him his name and if he knew where he was.
“He knew he was on the Monon, but he didn’t really say much,” she said.
And that’s the last she saw of him.
“I would love to see him again and just say hi. I’m just curious what happened.”
Brittany Mote went to nursing school with Davis and has worked in the OR with her for the past six years. She’s not surprised that her friend stepped up in this emergency.
“She’s very attentive and always willing to help out,” Mote said.
Davis is glad she was there to lend a hand.
“It feels good that I was able to help this gentleman. All the hard situations I’ve been in (at Riley) really helped me.”
After the adrenaline wore off, Davis was hungry – and her table was ready.
“I went and ate a big burger afterward.”
– By Maureen Gilmer, IU Health senior journalist