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Off Duty RT: Young Therapist Shares Her Good Samaritan Stories

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January 27, 2012

Many RTs have found themselves in situations where they had to use their medical skills off the job, and most will tell you they’ll never forget it.

For Jenny Hsieh, BSRT, RRT, it all started with a cab ride down Michigan Avenue in Chicago, IL, on Dec. 18. “I was sitting in the back of the cab when my friend and I were alerted by our taxi driver about someone laying in the middle of the street,” recalls the 2011 graduate of the BSRT program at The Ohio State University in Columbus, OH. “As we pulled up, it was apparent that she was not moving.”

Hsieh says her medical training kicked into gear and she hopped out of the car without much thought about what she might be getting herself into. “I didn’t really think about how this affected me getting out of the cab. I just wanted to make sure that she was okay,” she says. “When someone’s life is on the line, every second counts.”

Rushing to her side

Luckily, it was late at night, so the usually busy thoroughfare was fairly devoid of traffic, and the cars that were coming veered away when they saw her waving her hands.

She rushed to the side of 28-year-old Meghann Eff, who was later determined to be the victim of a hit and run driver. Scott immediately pulled out her phone to dial 911, then checked Meghann’s carotid for a pulse and held her steady so that she wouldn’t move and put any undue pressure on her spine.

Meghann appeared stable for the moment, with an intact airway, but she was unresponsive to Hsieh’s attempts to talk to her. Still, Hsieh knew she had to keep her still to avoid further injury. “Even though Meghann wasn’t responding to my voice, I would tell her not to move,” says the RT.

At that point, several cars pulled up offering to help, but Hsieh told them the paramedics were on the way. However, she was grateful for one gentleman, who parked his car and came over to wait with her. “He questioned if I should’ve been touching her, since she was visibly bloodied. I assured him that I was simply assessing her and that I was a trained medical professional.”

Adrenaline rush

Hsieh says it was probably only a few minutes between the time she saw Meghann on the street and the ambulance arrived, but it seemed like much longer. “This was most likely the adrenaline rush, but what was probably only a few minutes in reality, felt like 15.”

When the paramedics got there, the therapist filled them in on Meghann’s condition, letting them know she was found prone, nonresponsive to voice, had a pulse, and her airway was intact. After the ambulance pulled away, Hsieh walked to her apartment, which was just a few blocks away. She spent the night going over and over the incident in her mind, and hoping Meghann would be okay.

Since the accident happened near Northwestern Memorial Hospital, where she works as a therapist, she also thought maybe Meghann had been taken there, but when she told her story to her co-workers the next day, nobody was aware of an accident victim having come in. About a week later, however, Hsieh received a call from a news reporter at the local ABC-TV affiliate wanting to know if she had been the one to save Meghann’s life. “I don’t know how they tracked down my number, but I assume it was because I used my phone to dial 911.”

Sweet meetings

The reporter wanted to arrange a meeting between Hsieh and Meghann’s family at the hospital, and that took place just before Christmas. “Her family must have used ‘thank you’ in every sentence that was expressed,” she says.

In mid-January, she got to meet with Meghann again and she was so happy to see her up and about. “It put such a big smile on my face to see her up, walking, and talking. Even though she hasn’t gained full mobility, it was inspiring to see how quickly she had progressed.”

Jenny Hsieh had asthma as a child and was drawn to respiratory therapy as a profession after a bout with status asthmaticus during her freshman year of high school. “You could say the patient became the therapist,” she says. “So far, I am loving every second!”