Gaston College Nursing Student steps up to save a life

What started out as a fun outing for Gaston College LPN students and their teacher turned into an actual life-or-death experience.

On Thursday, July 22, seven students and their clinical nursing instructor Joyce Floyd, BSN/RN, went to the Olive Garden Italian Restaurant in Gastonia to celebrate the completion of their two-month clinical rotation at the Stanley Total Living Center earlier in the day.

They had been at the restaurant for about 45 minutes when a restaurant employee ran to their table and asked for help. Floyd had been pointed out as a nurse by a someone who knew her. Another employee was in the kitchen choking on food and unable to breathe. Floyd immediately rushed into the kitchen and got behind him to administer the Heimlich maneuver in order to dislodge the food stuck in his throat, and she told employees to call 911. After three or four thrusts that did not have the desired result, Floyd called for nursing student Madeline Hare to come to the kitchen.

Hare is much taller than Floyd and, given the height of the employee who was in distress, Floyd felt she could be more effective. Under Floyd’s guidance, Hare performed the Heimlich maneuver and on the fifth forceful thrust the food was ejected. After assessing the employee’s breathing and condition, it was determined that the 911 call could be cancelled.

Prior to Thursday, Hare had never performed the Heimlich maneuver and never imagined that she would be called upon to do it. When Floyd summoned her help, she did not hesitate and followed Floyd’s directions. “During the procedure the adrenaline took over and I don’t even remember thinking—I was just doing,” Hare said. “After the procedure, I thought, ‘Did that just happen? My family will never believe this!’ And then my hands were shaking and I was so overwhelmed by what had just happened. I could not believe it was real.”

Although this incident was something Hare could not have anticipated, helping people has been a goal for years. When Hare was in high school, her sister had a surgery that went wrong and she almost lost her life. Hare helped her during her recovery and she realized how much she loved taking care of people. “Ever since then,” Hare said, “I have had a dream of becoming a nurse.”

Hare got her Certified Nursing Assistant, or CNA, certification from Gaston College in 2016 and started in the College’s LPN—Licensed Practical Nurse—program in fall 2020. She will graduate from the program on Tuesday, August 3, and will apply to the LPN-RN Program for the 2022-2023 year. After that, she plans to continue her education and eventually get her bachelor’s degree in the Science of Nursing.

Hare has worked for just over a year at CaroMont Regional Medical Center as a CNA in the medical/surgical/oncology unit. After passing her NCLEX-PN exam, she will be an LPN in the same unit. Her career goal is to work in labor and delivery or women’s health.

“We are so proud that the quick action of our people saved someone’s life,” said Dr. Allison Abernathy, Dean of Health and Human Services. “It demonstrates the professionalism, skill, and dedication to helping people that our faculty and students share. I’m very happy that Madeline, Joyce, and the other students were in the right place at the right time.”

After the incident, the Olive Garden manager, employees, and the choking victim expressed their gratitude to Hare, Floyd, and the other students. As for Hare, this lunch at Olive Garden was “an experience [she] will never forget!”


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