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Chris Chmura, RN

Life-Saving Event Yields Valuable Lessons

It’s not unusual for healthcare professionals to intervene in medical emergencies outside of work.

Chris Chmura, RN, has done so about a dozen times – once when he performed CPR on a child beside the New Jersey Turnpike, another time on a plane enroute to his honeymoon with his wife, Kendra, who is also a Yale New Haven Hospital nurse.

It happened again the afternoon of April 2. Chmura, who is manager of clinical projects and education, Emergency Services, was leaving work early after a long shift to pick up his daughter. Normally he parks in the Air Rights Garage, but that day he parked at 2 Howe St. He was coming out of Smilow Cancer Hospital when he heard, “Somebody call 911!”

“It’s just by happenstance that I was in that area at that time,” Chmura said.

He ran over to Park Street and saw a man who was unresponsive and not breathing at the wheel of a Subaru. The man appeared to have had a medical emergency and tried to park but instead went into reverse and hit an SUV. The Subaru was still running and in reverse, so Chmura told the SUV driver to quickly put on their parking brake and get on the sidewalk.

The Subaru was locked, so Chmura looked for something to break a window. A valet parking supervisor gave him a tool, and Chmura broke a window, hurting his hand in the process.

Despite his injury, Chmura reclined the driver’s seat and began CPR. Other hospital staff came to help, including Jennifer Barna, RN, Medical ICU, who started an IV on the driver. Chmura flagged down a Hamden Fire Department vehicle. The firefighters/paramedics were busy with another call but summoned an American Medical Response (AMR) supervisor.

After more CPR and a shock from an automated external defibrillator (AED) the AMR supervisor had provided, the Subaru driver was taken to the Emergency Department and admitted to the hospital.

“Between the valet supervisor, Jen, the other hospital staff who came to help and AMR, this was really a team effort,” Chmura said.

For Chmura, the incident reinforced the importance of being prepared for emergencies, no matter where you are. His advice: Pay attention to your surroundings so you can identify a medical emergency when it occurs. Call for help early – dial 911 for incidents outside the hospital or 155 in the hospital. Chmura later learned that no one had called 911 during the incident in front of Smilow, likely because bystanders thought someone had already called.

“As a dispatcher I was happy to get multiple 911 calls about the same incident,” he said.

While he has an extensive background in emergency services, as an EMT and Emergency Department nurse, he stressed that people don’t have to have clinical experience to help.

“We can teach anybody techniques they can use to save a life,” he said.

Chmura encourages everyone to learn CPR, with a lesson on the hands-only technique or by taking a more in-depth course for certification in CPR and AED use. For information about learning CPR, contact YNHH’s Center for EMS, (203) 562-3320.

Chmura also recommends that people take Stop the Bleed classes, periodically offered to clinical and non-clinical employees at Yale New Haven Health’s different delivery networks. Visit Infor and search “Stop the Bleed” for a schedule of monthly classes available now through October at YNHH’s campuses and the Center for EMS.