Being called a “hero” by her colleagues seems a bit strange to Joselyne Nicolalde, BSN, RN, a nurse in Rush University Medical Center’s cardiac intensive care unit.
After all, Nicolalde says she did what any one of them would have done when a teenage girl was pulled from Lake Michigan unresponsive and not breathing after a near-drowning incident. She sprang into action.
She was enjoying an afternoon at Montrose Beach with her 10-year-old son and a friend on Aug. 14 when they heard people yelling for help.
“I looked up and saw a man holding what seemed to be a lifeless girl on the shore,” she recalled. “I couldn’t believe my eyes. I had to do something.”
‘She lacked a pulse’
Nicolalde and a lifeguard were the first to reach the girl. “She lacked a pulse and was unresponsive at the time, so we immediately administered CPR. There was a return of circulation shortly thereafter. It wasn’t long before the paramedics arrived and took over.”
Fire officials told a NBC 5 News reporter that the victim was “speaking and breathing on her own” before being transported to a local hospital. That evening, Nicolalde received more good news: A cousin and the father of the victim contacted her via instant message on Facebook and said the girl was doing well.
“They saw my name on the news,” she said. “They were unbelievably sweet and thankful. I was just so happy to hear from them and to know that she was going to be OK.”
Nicolalde has been a nurse for three years — including just over a year at Rush. Her focus has always been intensive care, but she came upon her career choice the hard way: While experiencing some unpleasant moments during her grandfather’s care when he was hospitalized and critically ill. After his death, Nicolalde decided she would make helping others her life’s work.
“Being a bedside ICU nurse puts me in a position where I can be my patients’ advocate and voice when they cannot use their own,” she said. “I strive to give the best possible care to all my patients, while being compassionate and informative to their families.”
As for the praise showered upon her after the news broadcast ran, Nicolalde took it all in stride.
“We are often faced with unexpected situations that can instantly change lives,” she said. “Colleagues and friends were calling me a hero as soon as they heard the news, but I know deep in my heart that any person I am proud to work with at Rush would have done exactly the same thing that day on the beach.”