By Jennifer Browning
As she approached the helicopter pad, Jackie Greene, a cardiac nurse at Rochester General Hospital, noticed the helicopter was landing in an unusual manner. Before the blades could slow down, security was calling. Jackie knew something wasn’t right.
“I knew there was a problem with the patient,” she said. “The last report I received in Cath. Lab was that the patient was having frequent reprofusion heartbeats and was becoming somewhat unstable.”
The helicopter door opened up.
“We have lost his pulse and he is asystole,” the flight nurse and paramedic yelled out.
Jackie and her team pulled the gurney out and started chest compressions as they wheeled the patient into the emergency department. Her colleague attempted to start an IV and others were following doctors’ directions and the protocol for medication administration.
As she continued with the chest compressions, Jackie saw the patient’s left arm flopping off the bed—bouncing to the beat of the chest compressions she was performing. Then she saw a young woman grab the patient’s hand.
“Dad please don’t die, you can’t die.” Her voice was shaking.
Jackie looked up to find the woman staring right at her, watching everything she was doing. Then, their eyes met.
“Please don’t let my father die, I’m not ready to lose him, I need him.”
The nurse’s eyes started to tear.
“I could not take my eyes away from hers,” she said. “There is something about eye contact that compels me to do something to the best of my ability, and I definitely could feel it in this situation. I thought to myself, I am lucky to still have my father. What would it be like not to have him? I believe that made me want to do everything that I could so that she could keep her father.”
Once there was a heart rhythm the team transported the patient to the Cath. Lab to attempt to do an angiogram. After several hours an Intra-aortic balloon pump was placed, opening up blocked vessels and trying to maintain a viable heart rhythm. The patient was transferred to the intensive care unit.
“I thought that was going to be the end of my interaction with the patient and his family,” she said. “Just another story that the Cath. Lab staff is used to dealing with, but you still feel rewarded for all you do.”
Over the next few days Jackie continued to ask Dr. Doling how the patient was doing.
“Great, we saved another one,” he said in his usual manner. “He is lucky to be alive.”
This past August, Jackie looked down and saw Ron Wheat’s name on the schedule for a generator change for his defibrillator. At first she thought that it could not be him. She inquired if this was the famous Ron Wheat that she knew and remembered.
“Why don’t you go see for yourself?” Dr. McGrody said. “Jackie, this is one of the reasons you are a nurse and you do what you do. This man is alive today because of what we all do.”
It was him.
“As soon as I saw Ron, my eyes met his and both our eyes started to tear, along with his wife’s. He stood up and gave me that big hug again,” Jackie said. “This reassured me that I am in the right profession. He made me realize once again why I come to work everyday.”
Ron has been a visiting member for Chapter #50, Rochester, NY. since 2003, primarily visiting pacemaker/defibrillator and angioplasty patients at Rochester General Hospital. He sees Jackie often when he volunteers at the hospital.
“I call her my angel,” Ron said. “She saved my life and I think of that very often.”
Jackie said Ron is an asset to the Mended Hearts visiting program.
“He will see me bringing a patient down and he runs right behind me and starts to reassure the patient,” she said. “He shares his story with other heart patients, but he is really good about picking out what they can tolerate hearing at that time.”
Ron said his connection with Jackie, helps him be a better Mended Hearts visitor.
“She is not afraid to express herself in front of the patients,” Ron said. “It doesn’t happen every week, but she will be bringing a patient back to their room and she will tell them ‘boy does he have a story to tell you.’ She helps me connect with the patients.”
And while he doesn’t see her every week, Ron makes a point to try to say hello to Jackie when she is working.
“This nurse had my heart in her hand and that’s why I am alive today,” he tells everyone around him when he sees her.
When Jackie sees Ron and looks back on July 10, 2003 when she met him for the first time on the helicopter pad, she is reminded why she became a nurse.
“I was not the only healthcare professional there on that July day to save Ron’s life,” she said, “but just by being there, I am very proud to call myself a nurse.”