A routine errand became a life-changing event for a St. Luke’s nurse and the man’s life she helped save.
Paige Potratz thought she was just going to buy some groceries when she entered a Nampa Walmart in January. Soon, however, her day took a drastic turn.
“I was in self-checkout, and a man was yelling and asking if anyone had a phone,” Potratz said. “It turned out that man’s dad was laying on the floor in the self-checkout area, and he wasn’t breathing and he had no pulse.”
For the next five minutes, that man’s life was literally in Potratz’s hands.
Thankfully, he was in good hands. Potratz, a nurse who has worked in the St. Luke’s operating room since 2017, has been trained to perform CPR for more than 30 years.
“I started learning CPR at 14, when I was a lifeguard,” she said. “I just kind of stayed up on it.”
On that fateful January day, Potratz quickly surveyed the scene and knew she could help. She said her reaction was instinctual.
“Honestly, nothing really goes through your mind,” she said. “You just see the situation and deal with it.”
As one of the Walmart employees called 911, Potratz quickly went to work.
“The son was kind of trying to do CPR, but not that effectively,” she said. “So, I said to him, ‘If you want me to do compressions, I will, and if you want me to walk you through giving breaths, I will.’ While I was saying that I was checking for a pulse and making sure he wasn’t breathing.”
That was the scene for the next five minutes, until Capt. John Turley and his crew from the Nampa Fire Department arrived. Turley has been working in fire service for 28 years, and he’s walked into any number of emergency situations.
As Turley arrived, he saw Potratz performing CPR and was immediately appreciative that she was on the scene.
“The fact that someone was there that knew what they were doing and initiated that process … that’s the reason he’s alive today,” Turley said. “I do believe it was confirmed that the patient was in cardiac arrest … and so, essentially, the CPR brought him back.”
Potratz said at the time she wasn’t thinking about saving a life or worrying about the outcome.
“I think, working in the OR unit, I’ve been around a lot of high-stress situations where if you stopped to try to figure something out, you might have a hard time,” she said. “You just have to rely on the fact that you’ve been taught to do the right thing and you’re capable of doing it.”
Potratz said she later heard that the patient had recovered from the event.
“The fire department looked into it, but with HIPAA, the hospital wasn’t able to tell them anything other than the patient was discharged to his cardiologist with no defects,” Potratz said. “He didn’t have any negative effects from the CPR or anything that led up to it. It’s pretty amazing.”
Indeed, “pretty amazing” is an apt description of Potratz’s actions that day.
Turley and his crew didn’t think Potratz’s efforts should go unnoticed. So, they arranged for her to receive a Nampa Fire Citizen’s Award. She was presented with the honor at a Nampa City Council meeting on Feb. 8.
“These things are awesome,” Turley said. “Any time we can do something where we recognize a citizen that’s a positive thing. And I genuinely believe that gentleman is alive today because of the actions that Paige took.
“This isn’t a token story where we’re saying, ‘Hey, let’s prop this up.’ … It’s pretty special.”
Jackson Swanson, an assistant nurse manager at St. Luke’s and Potratz’s supervisor, wasn’t surprised to hear that Potratz stepped up to help – or that she was honored for her efforts.
“She’s just an awesome nurse, and is always putting her patients first,” Swanson said. “She is selfless in and out of work.”
After many years working in fire services, Capt. John Turley has seen firsthand how important CPR training can be.
“The people that get this training, honestly, they don’t expect that they’ll ever use it, and the vast majority never will,” Turley said. “But when that moment comes – whether you’re at Walmart of whatever – you probably won’t do it perfectly, but the fact that you’re initiating a process that has scientific basis behind it, it gives that person much better odds of having a positive outcome.”
Potratz’s efforts serve as a perfect example of that.
“People are so worried about not doing it right or not doing it perfectly,” she said. “But if you’re trained, don’t be afraid to do it. … Trust that you know what you’re doing and do your best.”
Not surprisingly, both Turley and Potratz are huge proponents of CPR training.
“It’s important for everyone to know CPR,” Potratz said.Added Turley: “Every kid in high school, it should be required. The more people that have that training the better society is, and that’s really what this story is about.”
Chris Langrill is a writer and copy editor for the St. Luke’s Communications and Marketing department.