Nurses to the rescue

By Kimberley Kearsey

Nurses to the rescue: PART 1 OF 3

Emergencies can strike at any time. Jarring, chaotic and often life-threatening, they startle the senses and send adrenaline soaring. In this three-part series, you will meet three registered nurses and one nurse practitioner whose peaceful off-hours were catapulted into frenzied encounters on planes, in quiet living rooms, and even in a community bar. These nurses jumped into action without hesitation.


Part 1: Drummer’s heart stops during performance

David Fox and his wife Rowena – both RNs – had just arrived at their local watering hole to watch a friend’s band perform during the summer of 2014. They were settling in for the first set and David noticed his friend, the band’s drummer, looked a little unwell. Suddenly, he stopped playing and collapsed on his drum set. As David and Rowena ran towards him, most of the other patrons headed in the opposite direction. With extensive experience in emergency nursing, the NICU and ICU, David knew he had to begin compressions immediately while Rowena calmly called 911 to notify them of a cardiac arrest. “My office is down the street from where this happened and where I would have had access to the drugs and the equipment,” David says. “I was sitting there with my bare hands, and that’s all I had.”

Fortunately, the seasoned RN had just updated his CPR training two weeks earlier and knew about the new protocols for CPR. Rather than 15 compressions, then a breath, the new standard is to offer continuous compressions with no breath. “People were heckling my CPR,” he remembers. Even the fire officials and paramedics told him he didn’t know what he was doing when they arrived.

“I knew what I was doing the whole time,” he says confidently. And it paid off. His friend recovered and returned to drumming within a year of the incident.

Knowing survival rates for an out-of-hospital cardiac arrests are extremely low, David says he’s “…happy to see the guy is up walking around and having a normal life because that’s not the norm.” In fact, his recovery was being watched carefully by researchers at Sunnybrook who were conducting a study several months later, and interviewed David about the CPR he gave.

When the conversation turns toward fate, and being in the right place at the right time, David is reluctant to speculate that it was anything more than luck. He says he wouldn’t abandon a stranger, let alone a good friend. “I just kept doing what I was supposed to do to keep him going.”

It’s not lost on David just how lucky his friend is to be alive. But he won’t take any credit for it. “I don’t want anyone to feel they’re indebted to me for something like that,” he says. “I feel that…I’m obligated to help. I have the ability and the knowledge to do it. I shouldn’t be the person running away.”

He’s also adamant that it takes more than one person to save a life. “I did what I could do. The paramedics did what they could do. Then a whole bunch of people at the hospital did what they could do. A hundred people saved his life. The guy who taught me the new CPR saved his life. My wife, who was telling EMS what was going on… all of that made a difference.”


To read Part 1 of this series, Calm walk home takes traumatic turn, visit [LINK TO FEBRUARY 2017 ISSUE ON HOSPITAL NEWS WEBSITE].


This article was originally published in the November/December 2016 issue of Registered Nurse Journal, the bi-monthly publication of the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO). Kimberley Kearsey is managing editor/communications project manager for RNAO, the professional association representing registered nurses, nurse practitioners, and nursing students in Ontario. Since 1925, RNAO has advocated for healthy public policy, promoted excellence in nursing practice, increased nurses’ contribution to shaping the health-care system, and influenced decisions that affect nurses and the public they serve. For more information about RNAO, visit or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.