Nurse wins award for saving life on ferry

Posted: Friday, May 30, 2008

KETCHIKAN - Two weeks after taking an advanced cardiovascular life support course, a 25-year-old Ketchikan nurse got a chance to use what she learned to save a man's life, which led to her winning the EMS "Pre-hospital Provider of the Year" award for Southeast Alaska.

Tom Miller / Ketchikan Daily News
Tom Miller / Ketchikan Daily News

Jennifer Turner, who works for Dr. William Anthes and for Ketchikan General Hospital's intensive care unit, was visiting her fiance aboard the Alaska Marine Highway System ferry Kennicott in Juneau in September 2007. Her fiance is a mate on the ferry and invited Turner to visit the vessel's bridge, according to a nomination letter Anthes wrote to the Southeast Region EMS Council.

While she was meeting the captain and other officers on the bridge, a call came over the radio announcing that a man needed help on the car deck, according to Anthes.

Turner rushed down to the car deck. The approximately 57-year-old man had been in a car that was in line to unload from the ferry. A ferry employee who was directing traffic approached the car and noticed that the man was not responding, and that his head was stretched far back on the driver's seat.

The man had been removed from the car and was placed on the deck before Turner got there, according to Anthes. There was a lot of noise and confusion, and it was obvious the man was in full cardiac arrest - he had no pulse - and needed to be resuscitated.

"Jennifer quickly started taking control and directed someone to start respirations and someone to start compressions," Anthes wrote. "She asked for 911 to be called and for someone to find an AED (automatic external defibrillator)."

There were a number of ferry employees on hand who had training in CPR techniques, so they knew what she was asking them to do, Turner said Tuesday.

The man was lying on a moist part of the deck, so a blanket was placed beneath him to avoid the possibility of caregivers being shocked when the defibrillator was used, she said.

A defibrillator was provided and its pads were set in place. At first, the device's sensors reported "agonal" (pre-terminal) heart rhythm, Anthes said. A shock from the defibrillator would not be effective in that circumstance, so Turner ordered CPR efforts to continue. The defibrillator then sensed and announced that a shock could be effective.

"He was shocked ... and a pulse was established and he started breathing spontaneously," Anthes wrote. "Oxygen arrived and was placed via a mask. The AED device announced a shockable rhythm was present again, and, with no pulse, he was shocked a second time. ... After the second shock, the pulse was even stronger, and his respiratory status continued to improve."

An ambulance arrived at about that time, Anthes wrote. The patient was taken to Bartlett Regional Hospital, where he was admitted to the intensive care unit. He later was taken to Anchorage for triple bypass surgery, Anthes wrote.

"Jennifer had just taken an advanced cardiovascular course two weeks before," Anthes wrote.

"She able to use what she learned from that ACLS course and apply it to an unexpected situation that required taking charge of the scene, giving appropriate directions, and directing other people to help in the resuscitation," he wrote.

"It is because of her clear thinking and guidance of the resuscitation that this person was successfully resuscitated and is alive," Anthes wrote.

Turner said Tuesday that she also works in the Ketchikan General Hospital intensive care unit, where intense situations sometimes develop, and doctors sometimes start shouting orders.

"I'm usually the one receiving the orders," Turner said. "But in this situation, I was the one barking the orders."

Turner first moved to Ketchikan in 2001. She left to attend nursing school and returned to Ketchikan in 2006.

She received the award in April at the organization's annual symposium in Wrangell.

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