Laurel Miller, BSN, a Missouri Baptist Medical Center emergency department nurse, never expected to use her medical skills on vacation. But last month, that’s exactly what she did — making an RV trip with her husband and four kids especially memorable.
On the fourth day of their trip, while in the Grand Canyon, Miller saved a man’s life.
The Miller family was enjoying the view, snapping photos and spending time together before leaving the area to grab some lunch. As they started to approach the shuttle bus, Miller heard someone scream, “Dad!” She whipped around to see a man collapsing nearby. Without missing a beat, Miller and her husband ran over to help cradle the man as he sank to the ground. Miller grabbed a souvenir T-shirt the man had purchased and tucked it behind his head as she yelled for someone to call 911.
Could It Be His Blood Sugar?
The man’s daughter said, “He is diabetic, it must be his blood sugar.” At this point, spectators had started to gather around. People were scrambling for something to give him, but Miller thought, “What am I going to do? He’s not awake enough to even consume anything.”
Miller says it felt a lot like a CPR class. She was rubbing the man’s sternum and yelling, “Sir! Sir! Sir!” to see if she could get any response from him. But in an instant, he stopped all movement. Miller checked his breathing: nothing. She checked his pulse: nothing.
She immediately started doing chest compressions. The man’s daughter began to panic and was yelling, “Dad” over and over, hoping for some kind of response. An off-duty police officer identified himself, and Miller instructed him to keep the man’s airway open.
A Shock is Advised
Amidst the chest compressions, a Grand Canyon park ranger ran and brought Miller an automated external defibrillator (AED). Another man, who spoke little English, identified himself as a doctor and took over the chest compressions while Miller set up the AED. Miller says she didn’t even stop to think. “I saw the AED and I went to work.”
The Miller Family
From left, Charlie, Kirby, Claudia, Kyle, Laurel and Harold.
She instructed the doctor to suspend CPR while she put the pads on the man to analyze his heart. The AED read, “Shock Advised,” so she cleared everyone who had been touching him and pushed the shock button.
The man woke up and immediately told Miller he was going to be sick. Miller and a bystander rolled him over so he could vomit. As the paramedics arrived, the man started to pass out again and the AED advised another shock. Miller immediately shocked him. Upon seeing this, the paramedics jumped into action and loaded the man up.
Everything Fell Into Place
When looking back on the experience, Miller says, “It all came so naturally. I didn’t stop to think about what I was doing. I’m more freaked out about the whole thing now than when it was actually happening. I can’t believe I did that.”
Miller gives a lot of credit to the park ranger, who grabbed the AED. “I was in the right place at the right time. I could have easily been in another area and missed the whole thing,” she says. “I had the AED, I don’t know what might have happened if I didn’t have it. It worked out perfectly. Everything fell into place so I could save this man’s life.”
Later that evening, the park ranger thanked Miller profusely. He said he had been trained on the AED but had never used it. He was glad Miller took it from him and knew what she was doing.
Their Mother, A Hero
Miller later found out that the man was awake and talking when he was airlifted out. The last she heard, he was stable at a local hospital and recovering.
Miller’s children watched the whole event and thought it was the coolest thing they had ever seen, she says. They were proud that their mother saved a man’s life and were asking all kinds of questions. When they asked her if she was scared when she had to do that kind of thing, she responded, “Well, at work I have everything I need and people to help me. Here, I was just hoping I had what I needed.”