Quick Action By Duke ICU Nurses Saves Choking Colleague

Two Duke Regional nurses rescue coworker after she begins choking

From left to right: Melanie Campbell, Claudette Suiter and KC Cherveny. Photo by April Dudash, Duke Regional Hospital.
From left to right: Melanie Campbell, Claudette Suiter and KC Cherveny. Photo by April Dudash, Duke Regional Hospital.

During a busy shift in October, Claudette Suiter, NA, health unit coordinator (HUC) on the intensive care unit (ICU) at Duke Regional Hospital (DRH), was answering calls and talking with clinical nurses Melanie Campbell, RN, and KC Cherveny, RN, at the ICU’s front desk when she began choking.

Campbell and Cherveny patted her on the back to help, but knew something was really wrong when Suiter slid out of her chair onto the floor in an awkward position and wasn’t fully responding to them. 

“We were able to keep her from hitting her head, and got her lying flat on the floor, and just as we tried to roll her on her side, her eyes rolled back in her head and she went unresponsive.  I checked for a pulse and didn’t feel one.” said Campbell. “My brain just took over and I immediately began cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). I only did five compressions and then she coughed and slowly started to come around. You never expect to perform CPR on someone you know.”

When Suiter regained consciousness, she didn’t know what had happened. 

“When I opened my eyes, everyone was leaning over me,” said Suiter. “I was embarrassed. When I went to stand up, my ankle had swelled to the size of an orange from when I fell from the chair.”

Suiter was brought over to the DRH emergency department by two nurses from her unit. On the way, they told her she coded, didn’t have a pulse for a minute and that Campbell performed CPR on her. 

“The prompt actions of our amazing team helped save one of our own,” said Cherveny. “And after we got Claudette stabilized, Dr. Branch and other colleagues were there for support. I am so grateful Claudette is okay and working on the unit with us again. She is a very special person and we are lucky to have such a caring, hard-working HUC.”

“I’m used to being the one to help,” said Suiter. “Being a patient yourself is scary, but the attention and love that the nurses on my unit showed to me that day proved just how much they care. No other hospital can compare or compete with the love on my unit and throughout Duke Regional. We’re like one big family and I’m proud to be a part of it.”