4 Healthy Nurse Heroes In Action

71d51864bbf01b7d9585e8b4fd0438c9-huge-4hOn August 10, 2018, in a Syracuse NY gym, three “off-duty” nurses were finishing a workout and one was getting ready to start.  Then a tragic accident happened, but these heroes jumped right in and saved a man’s life.  HNHN interviewed the four nurses to not only hear how they restored a fellow gym member’s health, but also how hard they work to maintain their own health. The nurses are Lindsay Watkins, RN; Katheryn (Kat) Dunn, BSN, RN, CCRN; Amanda DeFoe, RNC-NIC, BSN; and Katharine (Katy) Freeborn, RN,BSN, CEN, TCRN, CCRN.  Here are their stories.


How did it happen that you all were at the gym together?

KATY: Kat, Lindsay and I had been training for a Crossfit competition that took place in September. We were training together for a while but decided to go to Kat's gym the morning of August 10th. I had just worked a 12-hour night shift and was finding it hard to want to go to the 8:30 am class after my shift. Lindsay had called me as I was leaving work and convinced me to go. We completed the class and decided to stay later to work on our competition work outs. Amanda and Greg (the man whose life we saved) were there to take the 9:30 am class. We had never met Amanda or the man before this event. 

KAT: We were all at the gym together training for our first Crossfit competition. We know each other through working at Upstate together.
AMANDA:  I'm the odd one out. I wasn't with the 3 other girls at the 8:30 class. 9:30 is my regular workout time when I'm not working. I was often in class with Greg, as was the case that day.


Tell me about helping the man in crisis

KAT: We were on our way out of the gym for the morning (read: flip-flops, sunglasses, protein shake status) when someone came into the gym asking if anyone had seen his wife, who was in class with us the previous hour. They continued on that a gentleman had fallen up the hill on the run and had hit his head. We headed up the hill in another member's car. Just before we left, Lindsay had the foresight to grab the AED for the "just in case" scenario. The member's car whom we were in (also a nurse, hey!) had a pocket rescue mask in her glovebox that I took out for the again "just in case" scenario. When we arrived to the scene, the "just in case" scenario became all too real. Katy, Lindsay and I have worked together in many critical and emergency situations prior to August 10th. We were able to quickly assign ourselves different roles, and fell into them as if we were working a code in the hospital. Katy took over CPR from Amanda - the nurse who recognized Greg was pulseless initially - Lindsay prepped and attached the AED and I took his airway. All of this led to the positive outcome we all had that day. It gives me chills thinking about it all over again. 

KATY:  Lindsay had the sense to grab the AED from the gym as all 3 of us ran out of the gym to help Greg. Someone had been waiting outside in a car and was going to drive up to him, so we all hopped in the car with her. We arrived and found Greg lying on the sidewalk, lifeless, with Amanda performing CPR. All 3 of us went into work mode and assumed our roles in resuscitating Greg. We defibrillated him within seconds of being there and were able to get a pulse back before EMS arrived.


AMANDA:  It's indescribable. Greg and his wife were friends of mine before the incident and we're even closer now. I was by his side when he took his last breath and his heart stopped. I was terrified, but I knew I had to act; I've been training for over 10 years for something like this. I wasn't going to let my friend die. 

LINDSAY: The man in crisis...this was such a frightening experience that I have played back in my head countless times. 

I remember people shouting into the gym that someone collapsed doing a run outside. Somehow, I saw the bright yellow AED on the wall and thought to grab it before we went and checked on him. When we arrived at his side, he was dead. No pulse, no breathing and they were doing CPR. He looked like he was in great shape, very sweaty. I put the AED pads on and he got defibrillated. 

I have met him since. He’s a Navy veteran, a dad, a husband and an all-around genuine person. I have never felt so proud of my fellow nurses and my heart has never been so warmed by an outcome like this. To see this man smile, laugh, and kiss his wife on the cheek reminds me of how precious life is. 

Is going to the gym together a regular occurrence, does it help with accountability, make the experience more “fun”?

KATY:  Lindsay and I are a part of the same Crossfit gym and Kat belongs to a different one. Leading up to the competition, we all tried to go together as often as possible.

KAT: Going to the gym, for me, is a 5-6 day/week occurrence. I think it is important for nurses to keep ourselves in good health so we can serve our patients better. We have to be the role models. We were going together weekly leading up to the competition. Talking about working out and about the gym in general does help me personally with accountability. I'm writing this now, not wanting to go work out today, but I know I will feel so much better afterwards!


LINDSAY: I wish I could answer this yes, however most nurses know rotating shifts and long hours make that almost impossible. Going with friends does increase the accountability and make working out much more fun. I notice that now that I have moved away and don’t have workout buddies yet.

AMANDA:  A big part of Crossfit is being in group classes and supporting each other.

What other things do you do to maintain wellness:  (nutrition, sleep, other physical activity, meditation, yoga, etc)

LINDSAY: I love food and delicious unique culinary experiences. Food is fuel but it’s also fun eats that I typically seek out. 

My father actually taught me how important balance is. When I would be stressed out in nursing school he would ask: 1) are you eating good stuff? 2) are you sleeping? 3) have you worked out lately?  Those things are so basic but really are the crux of healthy living. I think sleep is way more important that we let ourselves believe. 

I’m one of those weirdos that journal a lot. This helps me maintain wellness by expressing emotions that are difficult to verbalize and somehow, for me, come out easier in written form.

KATY:  I try and make it to the gym regularly, get 8 hours of sleep a night, and keep well-hydrated. I have not done any yoga lately but would love to get back into it. I count my macros for my nutrition and I try to get regular massages. 

AMANDA:  Crossfit is a big part of my life, I just love the people and seeing what I'm capable of. It has led to every other healthy thing I do. I need good nutrition for performance and recovery but I'm not going to lie-working 12-hour nights is stressful and I have a cheater snack a few times a week. I try to sleep as much as possible, it's also important for performance and recovery, about 8 hours on a regular night. But, of course, those 12-hour nights really mess me up and I just try to rest as much as I can, 6-7 hours between shifts, and naps when my body tells me it needs it. I meditate with an app called headspace right before bed, it helps me calm my mind and body to get to sleep asap before I'm up and at it again. Last, but not least, I stay active outside the gym with walking, hiking, kayaking, snowboarding, or whatever keeps me moving.

KAT: Maintaining wellness for me means not only the gym, but a healthy diet and (attempt) at a routine working night shift and getting enough sleep. I also keep a journal, and try to write down at least two things I learned that day/night and reflect briefly before going to sleep. I think it helps me sum up my day, and it gives me things to be grateful for as well as improve on the next day or in days to come. 

What challenges are there in maintaining your own personal health and wellness; and how do you overcome them?


AMANDA:  Twelve-hour nights are draining and I really value my fitness so I still hit the gym between which leaves little time for nonsense. The goals I have for my fitness and a little caffeine ensure that I make it to the gym and give it as much as I can, which may be less than a more rested day but that's okay because I'm there and I'm trying. I plan and prepare my meals for the week so I can grab, eat, and move on to the next activity which helps maintain my nutrition and allows more time for sleep. A lot of my struggle is with sleep. When I work nights I day-sleep but then swap back to night-sleeping when I'm off. I use headspace to fall asleep fast, melatonin when I'm restless, and naps when I can find time on days off.

KAT: The work:workout:sleep:personal life ratio is definitely hard to maintain but I think it’s important to have all of those things in order to maintain health and wellness. I am a firm believer that there IS too much of a good thing. I make time to spend with friends and family to decompress from the chaos and stress of work, and always make time for myself to go to the gym, or at least out for a run/some yoga at home. Going back to journaling helps keep me accountable and plan my time accordingly. It helps me to prioritize what's important and what can wait until tomorrow...like the laundry. 

LINDSAY:  My work schedule is probably the biggest barrier. I try to overcome this by planning stuff after work or on a day off in advance so I can thoroughly enjoy my time off.

KATY:  The biggest challenge for me is working overnights. It defiantly makes it harder to stay motivated with going to the gym regularly when you work off shift. I just try to make sure my nutrition is on point and try to make plans to work out with friends so that I am held more accountable. I make sure I take the stairs as much as possible while at work. 

Anything else you would like our readers to know?
 
KATY:  Early defibrillation saves lives!! 

LINDSAY:  If you work hard then you must play hard too. Put as much time into yourselves as you do for your patients and you will have a long and satisfying career. Have hobbies, travel, and share these things with others. 

KAT: I think it’s important that everyone know that they can fit in time for their health and mental/physical wellness. You HAVE to. I also think it’s important to find something you love and know it might not come right away. I played college rugby and lifted weights daily. When I started my nursing career, it was hard to balance that gym schedule I originally had. I had stopped and gained weight, and did not feel like I had as much energy as I used to. I tried going back to lifting, running, kickboxing, yoga, barre...all of it. Nothing worked. Then I found Crossfit at Crossfit Syracuse and I couldn't ask for a better FitFam. Moral of the story is...keeping your head in the game to care for our patients is essential, and you can't do that without taking care of yourself first!

AMANDA:  It takes time and energy to find a good wellness routine but once you're in it, it's just another day. It's not easy going to the gym right after a 12-hour night shift. I struggled for weeks to make it a habit, and now, I can't imagine my day without it. You have to want it for yourself and commit to doing what it takes to make it happen without making excuses. 

 
Posted by Holly E Carpenter, RN, BSN on Dec 17, 2018 1:11 PM America/Chicago

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