Sheri Wagner, of Batesville, is in the business of saving lives.
As a Registered Nurse, she is accustomed to helping patients heal through modern medicine and therapeutic interventions. But on the night of July 29, she proved that she truly is a life saver. While working the night shift at Harris Hospital in Newport, there was a motor vehicle accident right outside the hospital doors of the med/surg unit. The nurses on duty heard the commotion and Wagner saw an upside down vehicle in the ditch just outside the unit doors. She told the other nurse to call 911 while she rushed outside to help. She saw the driver in the overturned vehicle and yelled to see if she could get a response. A Spanish-speaking voice answered in return. Wagner tried to calm the accident victim, but he was extremely hysterical and distraught. She thought he couldn’t understand what she was saying in English, but continued to maintain a soothing voice as she tugged the door open. The vehicle was in a ditch full of water that was quickly rising inside where the passenger was trapped. As she pried the door open, she yelled to the other nurse that he was alive! “I was scared, but he was even more scared than I was. So I couldn’t just stand back and watch. That’s just the kind of thing you do when you care about people,” Wagner stated. She got inside sideways, all the while speaking and soothing, when the victim suddenly stopped talking and became still. His head had become submerged under the water. So she crawled over and held his head up out of the water until the police arrived shortly. When the officer arrived on the scene he said they didn’t need to move the victim and risk injuring him further, but Wagner shouted that he was drowning, explaining that they had to hurry to get him out. With the help of two officers they extricated him from the vehicle, at which time he was unconscious. According to the police report, her nurse instincts kicked in and Wagner performed CPR. After several chest compressions, he began to cough and gargle water and started breathing again. After regaining consciousness, the victim stated in English now, “Just let me die.” Wagner responded, “It will be your time to die at some point, but not tonight on my shift.” EMS had arrived then and put him on a backboard and stretcher and quickly took him around to the Emergency Room where they already had an interpreter waiting there to assist with communication. When discussing the event, Wagner is nonchalant, as a hero’s nature generally is, but is quick to point out that it was a team effort. “It wasn’t just me. I had the ultimate team. That’s why I like working at Harris Hospital. We may not be big, but we are good. You feel like you have an army of people to back you up. I’m proud to work with a team of people who really care. It was a really neat experience; like something out of a television medical show because everyone worked so well together. The Fire Department first responder, policemen, and EMTs quickly moved the patient into the ER where the hospital charge nurse had already called for helicopter med flight to be on standby and radiology, lab and the physician were all waiting to take care of the patient. They even had an interpreter ready for translation if needed. Nobody had to call for help from other departments; they were already there. That’s what makes Harris Hospital such a good place to work because everyone just takes off and works together so well in a crunch. We have really good people working here with me. In my career, I’ve worked at hospitals where that was not always the case.” This big-hearted nurse does not judge people for their lifestyles. She says it is just simply her responsibility to provide the best care possible because you never know what a person’s situation might be. “It is our job to help people regardless of their choices during rough times of their lives, even if they are into alcohol or substance abuse. I felt strong during that event, but I get emotional even now talking about it and tear up a little bit. Life is just so hard for a lot of people right now.” This humble hero quietly returned with wet feet to care for her patients on the hospital floor to finish out her shift after fishing her cell phone out of the ditch. “If that’s all it takes for someone to live, that is simply my responsibility as a nurse. You do to your utmost ability, and then go home feeling like you did everything possible to take care of that patient.” She says that nursing is a very hard job and she wouldn’t be a nurse if she didn’t have a heart of service. “That’s just what you do when you care for people.”