Nena Powell was working at The Pint in downtown Edmonton when a man driving a U-Haul struck a group of pedestrians.
Nena, a fourth-year nursing student at the University of Alberta, jumped into action and used her skills and education to help the victims.
“My manager rushed over to me and said, ‘Come to the front door and stay calm – someone has been hit by a vehicle,’” Nena recalls.
A man was laying in the street outside, unconscious and unresponsive. Nena checked his pulse and respiration while waiting for help to arrive.
“I put the man in C-spine position and asked his girlfriend to stabilize his head so there would be no further complications to his head, neck or spine as a result of the trauma.” says Nena. “I also decided to initiate pain stimuli by doing nail bed presses and trapezius squeezes, but he didn’t respond to either.”
Two police officers were nearby, witnessing Nena’s actions, so she said everything she was doing aloud so the officers knew what was happening.
“I was saying his heart rate aloud and reassuring everyone it was normal,” says Nena. “I knew if his heart stopped, I would have to perform CPR.”
Shortly before the ambulance arrived, the man – who Nena learned was named Jack Zubick – regained consciousness, so Nena tried orienting him.
“I was saying his name and he was responding to me, so that was good,” she recalls. “But he couldn’t tell me where we were or what month it was.”
The ambulance arrived and paramedics took over Jack’s care.
“I feel like I did what I could with my knowledge,” says Nena. “But there are incredible nurses and doctors who took care of him more extensively afterwards. I hope they all get the credit and praise they deserve.”
“Everything I did I attribute to my education, like feeling comfortable with how to approach the situation calmly and appropriately,” says Nena. “I wasn’t nervous. My only concern was his heart rate, praying his pulse wouldn’t stop.”
Nena attributes her ability to act fast and stay calm to her education. As a fourth-year nursing student, Nena has been taught the basics of CPR and how to act in life-threatening situations.
“I was so thankful that it’s a skill we renew every year, because CPR is so important,” explains Nena. “Had his heart stopped beating, or had he stopped breathing, I would have known what to do. I’ll never take it for granted again. I’m grateful I didn’t have to use it.”
This experience didn’t diminish Nena’s desire to become an RN – if anything, it strengthened her resolve to continue saving lives.
In fact, Nena leaves in January for a preceptorship in a Ghana military ICU.
“I’ve always wanted to work in an acute setting, like emergency or the ICU. But pediatrics is where my passion has always been,” says Nena. “When I come home, I’ll probably apply for pediatrics. Maybe more trauma emergency now!”
In the end, Nena feels grateful for the opportunity to help where she could.
“I’m grateful that I am in nursing,” she says. “I know this is the right career for me and I definitely picked the right path.”