Mary Klug is an RN in the emergency department at Cincinnati Children’s. She also shared her story with the Cincinnati Enquirer. It was published Thursday, May 3, 2012.
I’ve been a nurse for 24 years. The first four years as a licensed practical nurse (LPN) and the remaining 20 years as a registered nurse (RN) in the emergency department at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.
Growing up, I always cared for my younger brothers and sisters when they were sick, and I knew I wanted to do something in health care. I began my medical career as a medical assistant, but after working in a doctor’s office, I knew I wanted to do more. Enrollment in all the RN programs was frozen at the time, so I became a LPN, worked nights, and went to school in the evenings to become a RN.
After working for 18 years in the emergency department, I started thinking maybe my time was over, and I was getting older, and maybe needed to move on to an “easier” job. But on October 10, 2010, something happened that reminded me why I love nursing and can still make a difference.
That day in October was beautiful, 80 degrees and sunny. My daughter had a makeup soccer game at Smith Field in Middletown. Hardly anyone else was there.
There’s a parachute place about a mile away, and we were watching all the people jumping throughout the game. Commenting to each other how much fun it looked. The game was over, but I was the snack person, and that’s why I was still there. My daughter came up screaming, “Mom, Mom! There’s someone out of control!”
We could see one of the parachuters coming down. Her parachute was closed, and she was tumbling in the air out of control. We all knew she was going to hit the ground, but we couldn’t tell where.
Then I heard a “thump!” I’ll never forget that sound. She hit the baseball field feet first, then landed on her face, and bounced several feet. I just froze. I thought, “This isn’t happening. I can’t help her. I don’t have any equipment, or any team members to help me.” Then I literally heard a voice in my head say, “What are you waiting for?” I believe that was God talking.
She was on her side, kind of curled up in a fetal position, with her head bent back. She was so petite and I knew she had to be young. Immediately I noticed she was blue, not breathing, and from the position of her legs I knew they were injured badly. She had severe facial injuries, and I thought to myself, she probably broke her jaw and every bone in her face.
After asking someone to call 911, I went to her head, listened for breathing, and felt for a pulse, and she had neither. I could hear a gurgling sound in her throat, so I immediately held her head in traction, asked a bystander to pull her legs and body in traction, rolled her to her side and started scooping out blood and dirt from her mouth. I noticed then that her faced “pinked up,” but she still was not breathing. I did this several times, and then noticed her chin strap to her helmet was occluding her neck area, so asked for a knife and the coach from the other team happened to have one available. After doing that she then opened her eyes, and screamed, “My legs, my legs, they hurt so bad.” While waiting for the EMS people to arrive and then Miami Valley Air, she would go in and out of consciousness. I continued to clear her airway and hold her spine straight.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw someone just running around, and I asked, “Who are you?” He said, “I’m her father. I used to be a nurse. Is she going to make it?”
Her father told me later that the surgeons had told him that the simple act of realigning her jaw and clearing her airway had saved her. Which to me just reminded me that sometimes you don’t need equipment, you just need to do a simple act to make a difference in saving someone’s life.
All I knew was her father’s first name, and that she was 17. A newspaper had a blurb about the accident, but I couldn’t get any more information. It took me two weeks to track her father down, and he told me she had survived. I literally didn’t sleep until I knew that she was all right.
My daughter, after watching the whole time, asked me if she was going to be all right, and I told her, “Absolutely.” I always knew she would survive, but I just needed to get that image of her that day out of my mind.
I was told by her dad later, she had fallen 1,000 feet. She broke about every bone in her face, including her jaw, had leg fractures, and multiple pelvic fractures, along with some small injuries, but did not have any brain injury or internal bleeding.
Ultimately, I didn’t save her. God used me to save her. He guided my hands. It was all up to Him.
It’s so ironic, because I was there for a makeup game that day, and everyone else had already left. She was supposed to jump that morning, but it was too windy, so she had to wait until the afternoon. I told her later that I was in the right place at the right time, and she was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
It was meant to be.
I can’t even describe the difference taking care of this patient made. It made me realize I could still do this, that I still love nursing. How often do you have a chance to make such a difference, to save someone’s life?
I feel re-energized. I used to do a lot of public outreach before my kids were born. I did health fairs and safety education, and I plan to do more in the future as my kids need me less. I used to keep quiet when I saw parents putting their kids in the car without a car seat, thinking they would just yell at me. Now I have renewed confidence in myself, to say what needs to be said, or do what needs to be done.
Most of the nurses I work with come to the emergency department thinking it is a stepping stone in their careers. I always thought of it as my final destination, and now I know it is.