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Roadside Rescue: Nurse Takes Action to Help Accident Victims

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“The first minute was really critical because I was worried the car was going to blow up,” said Chelse Martinez, RN, at CHI Health Mercy Council Bluffs. 

Martinez works as an overnight nurse in the Emergency Department, but she’s not talking about a patient. Instead, she was recounting an experience her family went through while driving home from a vacation this summer.

Martinez started at Mercy Council Bluffs more than a year ago, after receiving her nursing degree, and jumped at the chance to work in the ED. “I love when the opportunity comes up to help in a very critical situation and you have to work fast,” Martinez said. “I love the challenge and reward of helping patients in such an acute manner.”

Her nursing skills were put to the test when Martinez and her husband, along with their two young children, came across an accident while driving home from Texas. “We didn’t see the accident, but cars started slamming on their brakes and we had to pull off to the shoulder,” Martinez said. “That’s when we saw a truck had hit a pole and we pulled over to see if we could help.”

Martinez went to the passenger side and found a woman stuck in the truck from her seat belt. With no police or ambulance on the scene, she went to work. “I tried to get the woman out of the truck, and that’s when my husband yelled that it was on fire. I got in the car and unbuckled her so I could get her out," she said.

Once in the truck, Martinez could see the woman’s limbs were broken. “The woman was screaming in pain, but I had to get her out of the truck,” she said. “I was able to get 10 feet away from the accident and that’s when other people helped me get her away from the truck. The truck was in flames.”

Then Martinez went into “nurse mode.” She checked on the driver who had been pulled out of the truck and started chest compressions, when a police officer came and took over. Martinez went back to attend to the passenger until an ambulance arrived. “I was very scared when the truck was so hot, but after that it was just like I was outside working and delegating,” she said.

After 30 minutes, when crews were on the scene, Martinez got back into the car with her family and finished the trip home. She tried to find details about what happened after the accident, but didn’t have any luck. However, she did make an impression on her 5-year-old.

“When I got back in the car, my daughter asked me if I saved a life. I told her ‘I hope so’ and she said, ‘Mommy, you did,’” Martinez said. “I just wish I could have helped more.”

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