Street Talk: Nurses save lives

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When a group of Muskegon Community College nursing instructors and students traveled to a convention, they never expected to leave being called heroes.

But that’s what people are calling them because when it mattered most, the instructors showed their students what nurse training can do.

The MCC instructors, registered nurses Amy Herrington and Yolanda Burris, and nursing students Jennifer Vannortwick, Bailee Gorecki and Brittany Johnson were in Livonia for the annual Michigan Nursing Student Association convention.

Their late-night workout in the hotel gym last Friday was interrupted by screams.

They heard a kid running down the hallway, yelling, “There’s a baby in the bottom of the pool!” Herrington recalled.

The nurses darted around the corner, pushing aside many of the nearly 30 people congregated, and made a beeline for the toddler, K.J., now lying motionless on the pool deck.

A woman had pulled him out and begun CPR.

“She was trying to do her best, but I taught CPR and it did not look effective to me,” Burris said.

“I am not an assertive person, but I pushed the lady out of the way,” said Herrington, the mother of two small children.

She immediately began sets of 15-30 chest compressions while Burris breathed twice into the young boy’s mouth in between sets.

Meanwhile, Vannortwick, a student with some emergency room experience, had followed the instructors into the pool area, where she commandeered a phone and kept in continuous communication with 911. The other two students remained in the hallway to ensure a clear path for EMS personnel.

“People were yelling, crying and screaming, so our students were instrumental in getting people to move away from the scene,” Burris said.

Meanwhile, the minutes seemed like hours to the two nurses as they worked ceaselessly to save the child.

When in crisis situations, the nurses were used to working in facilities — with medical equipment and a health care team.

“But it was just us,” Burris said. “People were depending upon us, especially K.J.”

After more than two minutes, he still wasn’t breathing. They looked at each other, suspecting the worst.

But then, something happened.

“I was in the middle of doing compressions and his eyes opened,” Burris said.

K.J. began breathing and made some faint whimpering sounds. The nurses placed him on his side for a few seconds before Herrington scooped him to her chest and wrapped her arms around him. “Mama Bear in me just went into effect. I knew he needed a hug.”

After the paramedics transported the toddler to the hospital, Burris met K.J.’s aunt in the hallway, exchanging contact info.

In their respective rooms, the two nurses broke down into tears, they said. The next day’s breakfast allowed for an impromptu debriefing with the students.

“The strength, courage and natural instinct of our instructors were immensely inspiring,” Johnson said. “As nursing students, it is important to know that we are being taught by the best instructors; this is clearly shown through the staff here at MCC.”

Days later, Burris and Herrington still think about the toddler.

“People are calling us heroes,” Burris said. “I don’t feel like it’s anything that I have done. I did what we were trained to do, what I learned to do.”

The day after the incident, Burris received a heartfelt text message of thanks from K.J.’s mother, who was still grieving from the loss of her own mother to cancer months earlier.

”I wish I could hug you both a million times because I thank you a million times more,” the text read.

This seems like a good time to mention sister publication Grand Rapids Magazine’s first-time event in June honoring the nursing community. Excellence in Nursing recognizes nurses in several categories for their professionalism, impact on health care and the quality care they give to their patients.

If you would like to nominate a nurse or nurses for the award, use this link: surveymonkey.com/r/EIN2020NOM. Nurses who would like to fill out an application can use this link: surveymonkey.com/r/EIN2020APP.

The winners of the first Excellence in Nursing awards will be honored June 16 at a gala at 20 Monroe Live in downtown Grand Rapids and featured in the July issue of Grand Rapids Magazine.

Team effort

Uterine fibroid tumors are the leading cause of hysterectomies in the U.S., yet little is known about what causes them. A new study has taken researchers one step closer to understanding how these tumors develop and grow.

Researchers at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine, Van Andel Institute and Spectrum Health have uncovered new information about the genes associated with the tumors — a breakthrough that may lead to better treatments that could help many women avoid surgery.

“This study could not have been done without that collaboration,” said Jose Teixeira, who proposed the research and is a professor in the department of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive biology.

The study, funded by the National Institutes of Health and published in the journal Cell Reports, found that fibroid tumors have characteristics of cervical cells. The finding is significant because it could be a key to better treatments, Teixeira said.

“For example, among pregnant women, the cervix typically softens just before delivery. Figuring out what causes the cervix to soften could suggest new therapies that soften the fibroid tumors and prevent or inhibit their growth,” Teixeira said.

The researchers are conducting a follow-up study funded by the National Institutes of Health to help determine this.

Teixeira, who has spent many years researching uterine fibroid tumors, said that a surgeon once asked him, “Why are you working on that? We have a cure. It’s called a hysterectomy.”

But a hysterectomy often is undesirable for women of reproductive age and carries risks for women of any age. An estimated 75% of reproductive-age women have uterine fibroids, and about 25% of them suffer from symptoms including pelvic pain, heavy menstrual bleeding, pregnancy loss and infertility. The occurrence and severity of symptoms are even higher among Black women.

A team led by Dave Chesla, director of research operations for Spectrum Health, collected fibroid tissue samples for the study while protecting the anonymity of the patients.

The Van Andel Institute researchers specialized in bioinformatics, a field that combines biology, computer science and statistics. Led by Hui Shen, an associate professor at the institute, the team analyzed the tissue samples for their genetic characteristics.

“Collaboration is the key,” Shen said. “These kinds of studies require multiple teams. The collaboration was facilitated because we are all within a mile of each other — the Medical Mile.”

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