Off-Duty Swedish Nurse Helps Save Man's Life

"I don’t remember much but from what I heard, I was saved by some angels."

By: Audra Mincey

James SouthardSixty-eight year old James Southard was out and about on a normal Thursday afternoon with his wife Michele and his 8-month old grandson and their two dogs. They had just finished up a routine visit at the veterinary clinic and were on their way home. Getting into the car, James says he felt normal, nothing out of the ordinary but as he was pulling out of the parking lot he stepped on the brake and yelled out "oh no!" The next thing his wife Michele knew, James was passed out in the driver’s seat. "I was so scared, I put the car in park and got out to start screaming for help," she explains.

At the same moment that James passed out, off-duty Swedish Emergency Department RN Debora Rewerts was across the street gassing up her car. She pulled out of the parking lot when she noticed traffic wasn’t moving and there was a man lying on the ground. "I didn’t think twice and ran over to him. There were already people there trying to help. One man in particular was there trying to speak to him and kept things calm," says Debora. At first she thought James was having a stroke. Someone had already called 9-1-1 so Debora called into the Emergency Department at Swedish Medical Center to warn them a stroke patient was soon to be on the way.

Shortly after the call to the ED, James stopped breathing. With the Englewood Fire Department on the way, Debora and another man started administering CPR. "Being a nurse and reacting to emergencies is what I’ve done for 24 years. It’s like second nature," says Debora. James was taken to Swedish by ambulance.

"Everyone played a prime part in saving his life. It was just a sense of relief that I wasn’t alone," says his wife Michele. She explains that once James was transported to the hospital, a stranger helped to bring her and her grandson along with the two dogs to the emergency waiting room. "There were so many strangers who helped in this situation. They are truly our angels and I’m so grateful they were there for us," Michele explains. Upon arrival to the hospital it was determined that James wasn’t having a stroke but was suffering from a heart attack and he was rushed to the Cardiac Cath Lab where he immediately received a stent and was then taken to the Critical Care Unit.

"God protected me, that is all I can say," says James. Debora and James were reunited the day after the incident and it couldn’t have been a better moment for everyone involved. "He looks great! It’s so rewarding to see him," Debora said with a smile.

"Life is short, Debora expanded mine, that’s for sure!" says James.