A quiet, after-work trip to a local theater to see the new Judy Garland movie quickly turned into a life-saving evening for Kaiser Permanente San Jose off-duty pediatric nurse practitioner Debbie Marquez, RN.
“The movie had started, and I heard people shouting ‘help, emergency’ from just down the row where I was sitting,” said Marquez, who has been a nurse at Kaiser Permanente San Jose for 20 years.
Marquez investigated further and found a 63-year-old man slumped in his theater seat. His companions were distraught. Marquez began shaking the man’s shoulders and loudly asking, “sir, sir can you hear me?”
The man did not respond and Marquez said he had no pulse and she couldn’t feel him breathing. She immediately began CPR (chest compressions) while the man was still in his seat.
Meanwhile, the theater stopped the movie and brought up the lights in the auditorium. A group of moviegoers gathered around, and helped Marquez get the man out of his chair and onto the floor of the theater aisle.
As Marquez did chest compressions on the man, one of the other theatergoers called 9-1-1. Marquez asked someone to find an AED, Automated External Defibrillator, to try to shock the man’s heart into a normal rhythm.
Marquez heard one of the man’s companions say that he had a history of heart problems.
“Sudden cardiac arrest leads to loss of consciousness and pulse and is caused by an electrical malfunction in the heart that causes an irregular heartbeat,” says Marquez. “I knew the man would die if he didn’t receive CPR and the AED shock.”
Because the theater didn’t have an AED, a bystander ran to the health club next door to borrow their AED. Meanwhile, Marquez was still doing chest compressions and talking to a 9-1-1 operator via a speakerphone being held by another moviegoer.
She assured the 9-1-1 operator that she was a trained nurse and was waiting for an AED to try to shock the man’s heart back to a normal rhythm. The 9-1-1 operator told Marquez paramedics were on the way.
Finally, the theater workers showed up with an AED and Marquez wasted no time in administering the shock treatment. The first time, there was no response, and as Marquez prepared the AED for a second jolt, one of the other theatergoers took over the chest compressions.
“We were doing CPR for 7-to-8 minutes. I gave the man a second jolt as the ambulance arrived,” she said. “As they wheeled him away, one of the Emergency Medical Technicians said the man’s heart had started beating normally again.”
Of course, Marquez says she felt good for saving the man’s life and for keeping calm, which certainly kept everyone around her, the other theatergoers, equally calm.
“Debbie Marquez has always stepped in to do the right thing,” said Dr. Chynna Bantug, Pediatrics Chief at KP San Jose and Marquez’ boss. “Her pediatric patients love her, the parents do as well, and we’re so proud to have Debbie Marquez caring for our members and also doing great work outside too.”
Marquez never learned the man’s name or the outcome of her fast CPR. But there is a bit of lucky irony here:
“Just the day before, I had my ‘Basic Life Support’ refresher, which nurses have to take every two years to keep their license,” said Marquez. “So I guess I was ready to do CPR and save a life.”