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Heart to Heart

Victoria VanValkenburgh



As a volunteer firefighter and NSM Access Consultant, Victoria VanValkenburgh doesn’t expect her two jobs to intersect. But this past spring, VanValkenburgh found herself using her training as a firefighter to save the life of an NSM client.

Last April, VanValkenburgh was on her way to a customer’s home for a stairlift evaluation. “I had a little trouble finding the house at first actually,” VanValkenburgh recalls. “When I got out of my car, I could hear someone calling for help. I found my client on the garage floor.” In full first responder mode, VanValkenburgh rushed to her client, asking a series of questions—What’s your name? Do you know what year it is? Who is the current president?—anything to keep him conscious and talking. The client had fallen in his garage and was bleeding profusely after hitting his head.

“When I got out of my car, I could
hear someone calling for help. I
found my client on the garage floor.”

All alone, he’d been lying on the garage floor and calling for help for more than 15 minutes before VanValkenburgh arrived. “I immediately dialed 911,” VanValkenburgh says. “The fall had really taken a toll on him, and he had lost a lot of blood.” VanValkenburgh continued to follow the 911 dispatcher’s instructions, eventually hanging up when the dispatcher notified her that EMS would be arriving in just a few minutes. That’s when the unthinkable happened. “I realized that he was unresponsive,” VanValkenburgh says. “I did CPR on him for two and a half minutes and got him back right before EMS arrived.” A second generation volunteer firefighter with seven years of experience, VanValkenburgh is well trained about what to do in an emergency. But until to perform CPR on someone during a real-life medical crisis. “In the moment, I really had a lot of adrenaline coursing through my body,” VanValkenburgh recalls. “I was focused on keeping the blood flowing and later get his heart beating again, so reviving him was a release. The nerves and the emotion really kicked in after the fact.”

“In the moment, I had a lot of
adrenaline coursing through my body.”

VanValkenburgh’s experience has a happy ending. The client was taken by ambulance to the hospital and made a full recovery.

As he was being loaded into the ambulance, the customer looked at VanValkenburgh and reminded her that he really did need the stairlift —so she rescheduled their evaluation appointment for the next week.

“If I hadn’t been CPR-certified,” VanValkenburgh says, “we might have had a very different outcome.”

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