April 19, 2023

Bride and Nurse Bridesmaids Save Uncle's Life at Her Wedding

Bride and Nurse Bridesmaids Save Uncle's Life at Her Wedding

Image Source: Micaela Johnson

Nurses in order from L to R: NoraKate O'Brien, Olivia Smith, Laura Hoover, Pat & Micaela Johnson, Amanda Haimaidi, Liz Campbell, Amanda Berger 

Micaela Johnson was breaking it down on the dance floor of her wedding reception with her bridesmaids, Amanda Berger, Laura Hooker, Nora Kate, Liz Campbell, Amanda Haimiadi, and Olivia Smith when suddenly, disaster struck: a man who turned out to be the uncle of the bride collapsed in the middle of the dance floor.

Within seconds, the mood went from a joyous celebration to one of fear and panic. As it would turn out, he was suffering a “widowmaker” heart attack, one of the deadliest types with a survival rate that can be as low as 10-12%. But as it would turn out, as one bridesmaid put it, the man was “in the right place at the exact right time” because he was instantly surrounded by a team of veteran ER nurses who were able to take charge to resuscitate him.

And that team? None other than the bride herself, along with her bridesmaids. 

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From the ER to the Dance Floor, the Ultimate Team

Bridesmaid Berger—who has been an ER nurse for 17 years—tells Nurse.org that the dance floor was just getting restarted following the band taking a brief break. Everyone was having fun and dancing when the environment switched from dance floor to ER floor. 

“We all just instinctively went into action, fell into a roll, and became a code team,” describes Berger. Initially, she thought the man had simply passed out but then says she soon realized that he was much sicker. “His color was blue and he had an agonal breathing pattern,” Berger recalls. At the time, Berger had no idea who that man was, but that didn’t stop her from immediately assessing him as she would in the ER. 

Youtube video

After feeling for his pulse and realizing he had none, Berger shouted to one of the other bridesmaids and fellow ER nurse, Laura Hoover, who yelled for an AED while Berger initiated CPR. Fortunately, a bartender sprang into action and supplied the AED almost immediately. “Jeff didn't waste a single second grabbing the AED and jumping over the bar to start helping,” the bride adds. “He literally grabbed it probably within the first few seconds of everything starting.”

Once CPR was started, “there was utter chaos happening around us,” Berger describes of the scene. “People were screaming, yelling to stop, I remember someone even pushing me while doing CPR, his family was screaming.” 

Despite the confusion, Berger says their training kicked in and the nurses took charge of the situation. “I just locked eyes with Hoover and we did what we know how to do,” she says. “We drowned out the rest of the crowd and all of a sudden all the ED girls were around us and taking a role.” 

Even the bride’s dad got involved: as a retired Boston Police Officer, he used his own skillset to clear and calm the crowd, giving the bridesmaids-turned-ER-code team space to work. The entire bridal party helped perform CPR until the ambulance arrived. 

And despite the fact that they were able to take action so quickly, Johnson, the bride, admits that the experience was very surreal. “It happened so fast and then I kind of just went numb,” she says. 

The Right Place at the Right Time

After the ambulance pulled away from the reception venue, the party was officially over. Johnson explains that the reception stopped and a lot of guests went home: “People were just really unsure of what to do.”

Berger adds that all of the bridesmaids were left with “pits” in their stomachs, especially not knowing who the man was or if he even made it to the hospital. “Our hearts broke for the family as well as our friend for her wedding day and worried that instead of one of the happiest days of her life, this could be one of the worst and her anniversary ruined every year,” she remembers. The bridesmaids ended up going back to the hotel to process what happened and talk. 

As they sat grieving together, the bride and her family came to the hotel to share the news with the rest of the bridal party that the man who collapsed was actually her uncle—and that he had made it. At that point, they all returned back to the venue, where the band—whom Berger noted was “amazing”---had stayed to pray while they awaited the news. Upon hearing the news that the man had indeed survived, they played the bride and groom one last song as they danced and cried, before ending the night with a song for the entire family. 

Image source: Micaela Johnson; Johnson and her new husband, Pat

"Everyone Should Know Basic CPR"

The good news is that Berger relates that her uncle is home, recovering, and doing well. And she credits both the preparation of her venue, Tirrell Room, along with manager Amy and her staff at the Tirrell Room who “were on top of everything.” Berger says that she never even considered that they might need an AED, but Amy had mentioned the venue did have an AED on-site in of the last meetings before the actual wedding. 

In Berger’s eyes, so much of what happened that night seemed to line up precisely how it needed to for the best outcome possible. “There were so many factors,” she notes. “He was feet from us on the dance floor [and] the doctor told him in a room of 100 people with the type of heart attack he had 99 that would die. He was so incredibly lucky if you could say that.”

And while she is grateful the situation ended well, especially considering it was her first resuscitation performed outside of the ER walls, Johnson is also using her newfound viral fame to spread the news about the life-saving importance of having an AED and knowing basic CPR.

“Everyone should know basic CPR,” she says. “And while the thought of using an AED is definitely scary and foreign for a lot of people, the machine walks you through each step and can be the difference between life and death. In the ER you learn that good quality CPR and early defibrillation is the key to saving a life, but you don't need to be a trained professional to be able to assist.” 

Berger agrees with her friend and colleague. “It was amazing to see how good quality CPR and early defibrillation can truly save a life,” she adds. “It’s so important for anyone even non-medical [people] to know basic CPR and the use of an AED.”

In addition to making sure guests are trained in CPR and an AED unit that’s readily available, Berger also jokes that any future brides out there who are wanting some extra protection at their receptions to consider inviting the life-saving bridesmaids. 

“We now like to call ourselves ‘the life of the party’ for all our other colleagues and friends who want to invite us to their weddings!” she laughs. 


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