DiversityNursing Blog

Quick action by Children's nurse helped protect young patient during chaos

Posted by Alycia Sullivan

Wed, Nov 20, 2013 @ 01:04 PM

Rita Higgins, a nurse at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, took bold action while working on Thursday to protect a mother and 11-year-old child when an armed man entered the seventh-floor neonatal unit and was shot by police.

By Don Walker of the Journal Sentinel

Rita Higgins was caring for Natalie Engeriser, her 11-year-old patient, when Natalie's mother, Katie, walked into a hospital room on the seventh floor of Children's Hospital of Wisconsin.

There's some kind of disturbance in the hallway, Natalie's mother told Higgins Thursday.

"When she said 'disturbance,' I was thinking one of the kiddos was having a hard time," Higgins said Saturday.

"I stepped into the hallway and I immediately realized something was wrong," Higgins said. "There were two nurses at the nursing station and by the looks on their faces, I knew something was wrong. I heard one of the nurses say, 'Oh my God, they are shooting. Call an active-shooter code.'"

A man police later identified as Ashanti Hendricks was armed and police were trying to arrest him. But Higgins, 37, a registered nurse who started working at Children's last February, didn't really know what was unfolding.

But Higgins, a mother of two just starting her third career, knew what to do, as did the rest of the medical staff.

"I immediately turned back around and I said to Natalie, 'Honey, I'm going to need you to get out of bed and me and your mom are going to help you get into the bathroom.' I was going to need them to go into the bathroom and lock the door behind them," she said.

Higgins wanted to be sure she didn't scare Natalie. The girl is one of Higgins' favorite patients. In fact, when Higgins arrived for work on Thursday, she had been assigned a different floor. Higgins was disappointed because she liked working with Natalie and had made strides in her care.

"A co-worker saw how disappointed I was," Higgins said. "A fellow nurse traded with me, basically. She said, 'Hey, Rita, I know you want to take care of Natalie.'"

Later, as the hospital went into lockdown, she was unsure what was unfolding on the unit. That's when she helped get Natalie out of harm's way.

"We got her and the medical equipment in the bathroom with mom," Higgins said. "I told her to lock the door. I looked them straight in the face and said, 'Don't open the door until I tell you to open the door.' I looked at Natalie and said, 'It's going to be OK.' And I closed the door."

At Children's, doors to the hospital rooms don't lock. But next to the closed door was a small window. As Higgins stood guard, protecting a mother and her little girl, she managed to peer out, trying to make sense of the noise, the chaos.

"Looking back on it, in the period of time when we truly did not know what was going on, we didn't know if someone was just literally shooting, and we didn't know police were involved," Higgins said. "There was that unknown period of time when you think, 'Is this door going to open with a guy with a gun?'"

"For all three of us, that was pretty horrible. All I know is that someone was on the unit with a gun. Shots had been fired," Higgins said.

At some point Higgins saw another nurse in the hallway who was watching a TV monitor where she could see police handcuffing the man elsewhere on the floor.

"That's when I stepped out of the room, looking at the monitor," Higgins said. "Seconds later, I heard more scuffling and the man was suddenly running onto my side down the hall and past me. I went back in the room and closed the door."

Police finally subdued him.

"I knew it was loud and so much stuff was going on," she said. "God knows what (Natalie and her mom) were thinking.

"I told them I was going to stay in here. I told them a bad guy was captured. I told them they were going to hear a lot of stuff."

Natalie and her mother came out of the bathroom. Higgins told Natalie and her mother to turn on the television and turn the volume up loud. Drown out the noise outside.

Two days after the ordeal, Higgins was full of praise for Natalie, her mother and the other nurses on the floor who performed calmly, admirably and courageously.

"I was thinking I was glad I stayed on the floor that day and that I was able to be there for Natalie," Higgins said. "You build up trust and she trusted me."

Later that night, when Higgins was about done for the day, a music therapist came with a guitar to visit Natalie.

The therapist played the Katy Perry hit, "Firework."

"That's the way I ended my shift, rocking out with Natalie with 'Firework,'" Higgins said.

Source: Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel

Topics: hero, nurse, patient, Children's Hospital of Wisconsin, shooting, Natalie Engeriser

Hero nurse protects newborn from tornado in Moore, Oklahoma

Posted by Alycia Sullivan

Fri, May 24, 2013 @ 01:21 PM

 By Morgan Whitaker

As a massive tornado swept through the Oklahoma City area Monday afternoon, Moore Medical Center stood directly in the path of destruction.

The building was pulverized by the 200 mph winds, sending patients and staffers scrambling to safety zones located in the center of the hospital. Miraculously, all the staff, patients and families survived the storm.

That includes nurse Cheryl Stoepker, who used her own body to protect a newborn she’d delivered barely an hour earlier. When she heard news of the approaching twister, she wheeled the newborn and his mother down to the cafeteria, a windowless room on the first floor of the hospital.

“It was dark, that was the first thing that told us something was happening,” she toldPoliticsNation on Tuesday. “We could hear the hail hitting the building even though we were on the first floor and it’s a two-story [building],” she explained.

“So we at that point got down on the floor, patient and myself, took her baby, put him in laps, and we hugged, and we started praying,” she said. “The baby was a little over an hour old, didn’t even have a diaper yet at that point, but mom and I held the baby and prayed and made it through.”

When the storm passed, Stoepker and her patient were forced to climb out in the darkness, navigating around debris as she tried to push the new mother and her child out in a wheelchair. They made their way out alongside one of her colleagues, herself 33-weeks pregnant, and pushing yet another infant and mother who’d just given birth. Eventually the wreckage was impossible to wheel through, and her patient, with only a few minutes of recovery from labor, walked–barefoot–out of the building.

Only 24 hours later, she’s still coming to terms with her experience. “It’s hard to describe and I’m still trying to deal with it and figure out what happened,” she said. As Rev. Sharpton said, this hero who saves lives and cares for people everyday in ordinary circumstances was able to keep a precious patient alive in extraordinary circumstances too.

Source: MSNBC 

Topics: tragedy, Oklahoma, hero, tornado, Cheryl Stoepker, Oklahoma City, nurse

Click me

Article or Blog Submissions

If you are interested in submitting content for our Blog, please ensure it fits the criteria below:
  • Relevant information for Nurses
  • Does NOT promote a product
  • Informative about Diversity, Inclusion & Cultural Competence

Agreement to publish on our DiversityNursing.com Blog is at our sole discretion.

Thank you

Subscribe to Email our eNewsletter

Posts by Topic

see all