Towards the end of my internship I was driving home at 5:30pm on a 35 degree day in Melbourne. I’d picked up an extra shift that day as a support person during the roll out of our new electronic medical record (see: Shitstorm). As I turned the corner I saw a small group of people standing around on a nature strip 6 or 7 houses down the road and the distinctive rhythmic bobbing of someone performing CPR.

I pulled into an adjacent driveway and sprinted from the car over to the scene. I (being the sim lab enthusiast that I am) clearly announced “I’m a doctor, is there anyone medically trained her.” As the heads turned toward me I recognised one of the Medical Registrars Andrew from my hospital and a hospital lanyard on the woman doing compression only CPR.

I asked the Med Reg if he would like me to support the Airway to which he agreed. I was pretty astonished how much air movement you actually achieve just with compressions as I jaw thrusted this guy for the next 10 minutes.

Another nurse Louise I knew from my emergency rotation at work also pulled over and subbed in for the next few rounds of compressions. A bystander on the phone to 000 told us to just keep doing what we were doing and that the Paramedics were only a minute away.

The ambos and firefighters both arrived at the same time and encircled the patient. One of the paramedics kneeled opposite Louise and told her to count to 30 and then he would take over. Somewhere around compression 15 the patients’ eyes snapped right open and with seemingly no hesitation looked directly at me and asked “Are you right?”

10 minutes later he was loaded on his way to Emergency as the paramedics shook hands with the hospital staff who had stopped to assist.

Up until I got in my car to drive home I had been completely calm and focused. About 100 metres down the road I screamed a very loud “Woo” and proceeded to ball my eyes out inconsolably for 5 minutes, forcing myself to pull over. I lost it again when I got home and hugged my dad crying and shaking for about 15 minutes as the waves of adrenaline continued to wash over me. It was the first time I ever truly felt like I might have been the difference between life and death.

I’ve had a lot of shitty work days since then which have seemed so much less important after an event like that.


Dr. Mason Habel

Names have been changed to ensure the privacy of those involved in this true account is protected.