Quick-thinking Essentia nurse uses CPR to help revive man at church

March 24, 2023  By: Louie St. George

Essentia Health sign

Before Feb. 19, Ericka Huseth had never administered CPR. A licensed practical nurse at the Essentia Health-Lisbon Clinic, Ericka is trained and certified in CPR, but she’d never applied it on anything or anyone aside from a resuscitation dummy.

Ericka HusethThat changed during a February morning at church. As her kids — Max and Sydney — collected the offering, Ericka heard a commotion coming from the back of the church. A crowd was forming near an older gentleman, who was unresponsive. Ericka hustled to his side and realized he didn’t have a pulse; his color also was alarming. She and another person gently placed the man on the ground. Ericka started chest compressions. It took only four compressions until he regained consciousness.

EMS arrived to assess and continue care for the man, who had just endured a heart attack. He had regained a steady pulse, but it was still determined that he should be life-flighted to Essentia Health-Fargo, where he had a pacemaker inserted.

Today, he’s on the mend back at home.

“I was extremely grateful to be there at that time,” Ericka said. “If we didn’t have church that day, if this would have occurred at home, you just don’t know what would have happened or if he would have survived without that medical attention right away.”

Ericka knows her medical background was beneficial that morning. But she cautions against the idea that you have to be affiliated with health care to learn CPR. Anyone could — and should — know how to perform it. That was her big takeaway from the experience.

There are numerous avenues to pursue CPR training, including classes offered locally by the American Red Cross and American Heart Association (AHA). Colleges and universities also may offer training opportunities.

Ericka understands that the thought of needing to know CPR can be intimidating. Still, she encourages everyone to look for a class because, as she says, “You could save someone’s life.” She never expected to need it, especially outside of a clinic setting.

“You may never have to use it, but to have that knowledge can always be useful,” she added. “It could be a family member who might need it. Even if you don’t want to do CPR, you could be there and tell someone else how to do it. So even having that knowledge could be useful because you could direct someone else on what to do.”

While her first time administering CPR ended favorably, Ericka admits there were plenty of nerves involved. It’s one thing to do CPR on a dummy, but something else entirely when there’s an actual person involved. Fortunately, Ericka’s training kicked in.

“You’re extremely nervous, of course, but your sense of helping another human takes hold,” she explained. “You just want to make sure this person has the best outcome. The biggest feeling you have is to try and get this person back to life.”

With time to reflect, Ericka says it took her a while to decompress following the life-saving incident at church. She has revisited how things unfolded several times.

“To find out that he survived and was doing well, that helped calm me down,” she said. “And then also just the encouragement from friends and family, who let me know they were proud of me.”

More than 350,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests occur annually in the United States. According to the AHA, about 90% who suffer out-of-hospital cardiac arrests pass away.

Thanks in part to Ericka’s quick thinking, the man at her church is part of the fortunate 10%.

Learn more about hands-only CPR from the AHA.

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