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Nursing school grad saves dean’s life at commencement

Nursing school grad saves dean’s life at commencement

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Every once in awhile, I come across a story that highlights the joys of being a nurse. Read about a lucky man.

Charity Townsend Caldwell wasn’t even going to go to her own graduation that day, but a friend talked her into it at the last minute. As the new nursing graduate hustled out of the rain into the DeSoto Civic Center on May 2 and saw a crowd gathered around a man, her instincts kicked in. “I’m a nurse,” she called as she pushed through people, got down on the floor in her heels and her half-zipped graduation gown and checked for a pulse. The man’s breathing was shallow. Then his pulse stopped. ” All I was thinking is, ‘I only have three minutes to get the blood flowing to his brain,'” she said. Caldwell, 35, began chest compressions, an act she had only performed once before and an act she was later told saved the life of Southwest Tennessee Community College’s Dean of Health Sciences, Glen Swinny. Swinny opened his eyes, took two quick breaths, and the paramedics arrived to take him to the hospital. “He really wouldn’t have made it, we don’t think, without Charity,” said Provost Joanne Bassett. “It was just amazing to see a little angel working in front of us.”

Swinny was taken to Baptist Memorial Hospital-DeSoto. He had suffered a heart attack and his arteries were 90 percent blocked. He had double-bypass surgery two days later. Caldwell had never met Swinny, but she visited him in the hospital the day after his surgery. “I couldn’t recognize him at first, but when he looked at me, I knew his brown eyes,” she said. “He hugged my neck, kissed me and said, ‘Thank you so much.'” School officials called Caldwell a heroine, but she views it differently. “It was divine intervention for both of us,” she said. “He let me know that I could do it.”

It took a lot of perseverance and little bit of luck for Caldwell to reach the graduation ceremony that night. As a single mother working full-time, Caldwell struggled for eight years to get her nursing degree. She began when her son was in kindergarten, taking one class at a time. After failing two classes, she was dismissed from the program. “I was crushed,” said Caldwell, who said she has always wanted to be a nurse. When Southwest instituted a readmission policy in 2007 in response to the state’s nursing shortage, she gave up her full-time job as a clinical reimbursement specialist at Smith & Nephew and started over. “I’m real proud,” said her son, 12-year-old Cameron. “She’s had hard times. I didn’t get to see her very much when she was in school. I was always being babysitted.” He said his mom taught him to follow his dreams, and he plans to become a mineralogist one day.

In a letter to the school’s president after graduation, Caldwell wrote: “I have no doubt that the second chance I was given to pursue my dream resulted in a second chance for Dean Swinny. To all of my instructors, classmates, friends and family, thank you for believing in me.”

By Sara Patterson (Contact), Memphis Commercial Appeal
Thursday, June 4, 2009

Med League provides medical expert witnesses to trial lawyers. Please call us at (908)788-8227 or contact us today to discuss your next case.

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