Why were you drawn to nursing as a career?
I had a good friend who passed away. While he was in the hospital, he had 2 male nurses who encouraged me to be a nurse in his honor.
How long have you’ve been in nursing?
35 years. I joined Project S.A.V.E 6 years ago. Before that I worked in hospital cardiac ICU and cath lab.
What first got you interested in cardiac issues and prevention of sudden cardiac death?
I had a team mate in high school who had a SCA. My coach did CPR on him and I will never forget the desperate look in his face when he was doing CPR. I want to try to make sure no one else has to go through that feeling of helplessness.
What are some of your recent projects and accomplishments?
We recently passed the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Prevention Act in Georgia – Jeremy Nelson and Nick Blakely Sudden Cardiac Arrest Prevention Act (SB 60). I’m a member of the Georgia High School Association’s (GHSA) Sports Medicine Advisory Committee. GHSA mandated that all high school coaches in Georgia are required to have CPR/AED training at least every 2 years. We have between 15,000-18,000 coaches in Georgia. The law went into effect July 1, 2019. I’ve been busy training coaches.
Can you tell us about a time when you were personally involved in a life saved?
Outside a hospital- one time in 35 years. It occurred at a health & wellness expo where Project S.A.V.E. had a table. Someone came to table and said “We need your help!” There was a toddler with complex medical condition and had no pulse, and had stopped breathing. I started CPR, with another nurse for 1- 2 minutes (with what seemed like hours!) and then I felt the child’s heart beat return under my hands.
Is there anything you are looking forward to?
I’m looking forward to helping host the 2019 International SADS Foundation Conference in Atlanta. I’m also looking forward to the impact mandating CPR/AED training for coaches will have.
Is there anything you would like to say to fellow nurses about attending the SADS Conference in Atlanta?
Some of these conditions are so rare in our pediatric population that it’s a great opportunity to learn about them. It’s important to recognize a SADS condition. Also a great opportunity to interact with patients and families to better understand what can be done in your schools and community. In addition to the healthcare provider program, the Family Conference will have continuing education hours for nurses.
What activities do you enjoy in your free time?
Atlanta has some great things to do. I’m kind of a foodie. Atlanta has some great restaurants. I enjoy going to local sporting events, Atlanta Botanical Garden , and exploring all of what Georgia has to offer. We have the North Georgia Mountains with over 1,000 mapped waterfalls and the beaches of Southeast Georgia.
What advice would you give to someone who is interested in getting involved with cardiac advocacy efforts to make their community safer?
I think the best way to start getting involved with cardiac advocacy is to demonstrate the behavior you want to see in others. My wife and I both have AEDs in our cars, we donate AEDs to the community we live in and teach a lot of CPR/AED. We have a son-Deacon, 6- who knows the basic CPR steps: to call 9-1-1 and get an AED.
From here, I would recommend connecting with likeminded people, who are interested in advancing the awareness of cardiac issues. You could join us at www.choa.org/projectsave for more information.
I think another great place to connect with is your state nursing association. I am currently the President of the Georgia Nurses Association. We are always looking for speakers and causes for our members to get behind. I have a goal that all 140,000 nurses in Georgia would teach 5-10 people CPR/AED every year. That would be another ½ to 1 million people ready to respond in a cardiac emergency.
Another suggestion is to get to know your local elected officials- Mayor, city council person, school board member, State Senator and State Representative. Meet with them; let them know you are the content expert when it comes to cardiac issues, including awareness and preparedness.