Finley Hospital ICU Nurse Helps Save Life While in Florida

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'I Didn't Even Think About It:' Finley Hospital ICU Nurse Helps Save Life While in Florida

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Emily Haverland, an ICU nurse at Finley Hospital, helped save a life while on vacation in Florida.

Beaches, palm trees and sunshine – three qualities that make Florida a prime vacation destination for any traveler. 

Emily Haverland, a registered nurse in Finley Hospital’s Intensive Care Department, will remember her recent time there not because of the picturesque views, but because of the life-saving measures she took to save a fellow tourist’s life. 

Soaking up the sun in a nearby pool, Emily and her group overheard someone shouting to call 911. Taking a peek, Emily realized a tourist was in danger out in the ocean, and one person was trying to get him to shore. 

Emily sprinted down the beach toward the person and found him unresponsive. With the seconds ticking, Emily checked for a pulse and quickly started chest compressions and after spitting up water, the person began breathing again.

“We get there, and he was completely unresponsive,” Emily said. “I checked his pulse and there wasn’t one, so I started chest compressions. We were able to maintain a pulse until the lifeguards and rescue team came.”

It was later discovered that the man had been boogie boarding and injured his head, which caused him to be pulled under a strong riptide.

“The riptides were super bad that day,” Emily said. “We had no idea, and we were even in the water earlier that same day.”

When the incident unfolded, Emily knew she could and needed to step in to help. 

She describes it as her “nurse’s instinct.”

“I didn’t even think about it,” Emily said. “Whenever I see someone that needs help, it’s just kind of my instinct. I don’t even question it. My initial thought when I was running out there was if it was a shark bite. But, that didn’t even matter. We just had to save him.”

While Emily was the first to begin chest compressions on the person, she knows it was a team effort between a few other beachgoers, who were also medical professionals, including an emergency room nurse, another hospital nurse and a paramedic.

“I wasn’t the only one,” Emily said. “There were multiple healthcare professionals, and it was no questions asked. They jumped right in and helped, which was really great to see. Everyone was there for the same reason – to make sure that he makes it.”

Staying humble, Emily struggled to grasp just how much of an impact she had on that person that day.

For her, it’s what she does in the ICU department at Finley every day.

“I guess that by working in healthcare, I’m a little naïve to the magnitude of it,” Emily said. “The people that I was with were raving about it and wanted to tell everyone. I was just like, ‘This is what I do.’ When I really think about it, ‘I’m like wow.’ I had no equipment, so it was just crazy.”

By jumping into help when the call came, Emily hopes her story encourages others to know CPR basics, particularly chest compressions. 

If it wasn’t for her knowledge of CPR, who knows what that tourist’s outcome would’ve been that day.  

“If you have those basic skills or have taken CPR, even if you aren’t very experienced in it, you can do chest compressions,” Emily said. “It can save someone’s life. It doesn’t take much, but the longer they go without oxygen, the harder it is to get them back.”

With Emily back in Iowa and the Finley ICU department after being on vacation, she’s thankful she was able to help that person that fateful day. 

Emily said the incident is one she’ll never forget, not because of the magnitude of the situation, but because she simply did what nurses do – help others. 

“Everyone keeps telling me that I must’ve been there for a reason,” Emily said. “But, I know anyone else in my position would have done the same thing. It doesn’t matter who it is, if someone needs to be rescued, that’s what you have to do, whether you know them or not.”