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April 2, 2007 - Today the Canadian press carried stories about nurse Julie Beattie, who had reportedly given CPR to a heart attack victim at a Toronto Maple Leafs hockey game two days before. The Globe and Mail and The Toronto Star both suggest that the pediatric emergency nurse saved the fan's life. The nurse-centric coverage underscores the irony that nurses sometimes get credit when they save someone in unusual settings--at a game, in an airplane, in a parking lot--but seem to have more trouble getting the media to recognize that they actually save lives as part of their normal work. We also wonder if part of what makes such stories "news" is the fact that they involve nurses, who many in the media may not expect to have much technical health care skill. In any case, we do thank the Globe and Mail and the Star for highlighting Beattie's actions.

The Globe and Mail ran Jennifer Lewington's piece, "A Vital Play Off the Bench; Quick-acting nurse saves life of stricken fan at Leafs game," on the front page with a huge photo of Beattie. The piece reports that a fan collapsed just before the end of regulation play at the NHL game (the Pittsburgh Penguins had just tied the game, which the Leafs later won in overtime). Beattie, a 28-year-old nurse who practices at McMaster University Hospital, was at the game with her husband. The piece notes that she "spotted a 'big commotion' and the 'tense body language' of onlookers, so she decided to investigate." This part is great; even noticing that there was a problem sounds like a skilled intervention ("First, look for any tense body language").

The Globe and Mail reports that Beattie applied CPR, pumping the man's chest. It says she was joined by paramedics from the Air Canada Centre's on-site health services, and three physicians--the Leafs' team physician and two fans. Yet Beattie gets virtually all the attention, including admiring comments from officials and a number of quotes. She notes that "[h]ockey players score goals, and we do compressions." Beattie emphasizes how the on-site health professionals worked as a team until paramedics from Toronto EMS arrived to take the patient to the hospital, where he is apparently in stable condition. But she also offers this bit of self-deprecation, with a twist:

For myself, I don't think it is anything big or extraordinary. It was not that big a deal. Except it was a big deal for the guy whose heart stopped.

Nicely done.

Dale Anne Freed's piece in the Star, "Nurse stars in saving fan's life; Administers CPR as Leaf Nation watches," is fairly similar. Beattie is quoted as saying that hockey players score goals, whereas "I give out Band-Aids, hugs or do CPR on people." This is maybe a little too self-deprecating; the vast majority of what nurses do requires college-level science training. However, on the whole, the Star piece is better at bringing out Beattie's skills:

Beattie...saw the commotion two sections over to her left. She pushed past the throng of frantic people around the fallen fan and jumped into action. "He wasn't breathing,'' she said. "He was pale ... he was unresponsive." She began performing CPR, pushing on the man's chest. Leafs play-by-play voice Joe Bowen saw Beattie, wearing a Leafs' Darcy Tucker No. 16 jersey, working on the victim and switched his focus to her life-saving actions. At first she tried to move the victim from his seat, but the large man - she estimated he was about 6-foot-2 and weighed 200 lbs - was too big for Beattie, so she continued chest compressions in the stands. "I got a pulse," she said. "It was weak at first." Suddenly her firefighter husband Paul, 29, was at her side and took over the chest compressions. Paramedics arrived and two doctors arrived. "I'm an ICU doctor," said one. "I'm a nurse," Beattie responded.

The exact dynamic of the nurse-physician interaction is not explained. Was this just two professionals exchanging identities? Or was it more of a professional face-off, with the subtext being that the physician assumed the nurse would simply step aside deferentially, and the nurse declined to do so? The piece also reports that Beattie "said she did what she was trained to do: save lives." Altogether, this is not a bad portrait of a nurse using her skills to help the patient. The attention of the play-by-play announcer Bowen may partly explain why Beattie got so much media attention after the fact. Bowen himself calls Beattie a "heroine." And the Star piece closes with reaction from Beattie's "hockey hero" Darcy Tucker, who appreciates that Leafs fans like her "have that in their hearts."

Yes, in their hearts--but also in their heads.

See the story in the Toronto Star "Nurse stars in saving fan's life:Administers CPR as Leaf Nation watches" by Dale Anne Freed. See the article "Quick-acting nurse saves life of stricken fan at Leafs game" by Jennifer Lewington in the Globe and Mail.


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