It’s hard for most people to know how they will react in an emergency situation, but luckily hospital workers train for it.
Beth Marion, Interim Clinical Director of Women and Children’s Services at Tidelands Health, has proved as much with her quick and steady responses to the highway accidents she’s encountered in real time.
In fact, Marion has leapt into action twice in as many years traveling from Myrtle Beach to Columbia for meetings at SCHA—the first for a monthly gathering of the South Carolina Birth Outcomes Initiative over a year ago, the second to attend the SCHA Management Academy just a few weeks ago.
“It’s funny because just a few minutes beforehand I was thinking ‘oh, I’m making great time, this is going well,’” recalls Marion of the moments before the most recent incident. Then a car heading the opposite direction on I-26 spun through the median right in front of her car, ending up in a deep ravine off the highway.
Marion pulled over, along with several other drivers, and reacted on instinct. She told one woman to dial 9-1-1 as she approached the car. The driver, a woman, was still screaming.
“I told her to calm down, everything was fine,” Marion says. “The car was running, it was smoking, so I knew we needed to get her out. I was worried about it catching fire. I was trying to look for a way in.”
The car was on its side smashed up against a tree, so accessing the driver was difficult. Another impromptu rescuer tried to break through the windshield, while Marion tried to wedge open the car’s rear hatchback. Neither was successful.
“Eventually we saw that the roof was a kind of convertible, even though it was a hard top. He [the other rescuer] was able to peel the top from the windshield and pull her out,” she recounts. “I grabbed some of her stuff, her purse and a towel. [Then] I just talked to her, put some water on her legs to get some of the glass off her.”
The woman was obviously still in shock, and Marion figured she had a concussion at least, but knew the immediate danger had passed. Now her job was just to monitor the situation until EMS arrived.
She had performed a similar role in the first situation, an incident where a truck hauling a trailer had ended up completely upside down and thrown a young passenger from the vehicle. The driver, the boy’s father, had to be pulled from the vehicle, but both were alive.
“He [the boy] was walking, talking, looked completely normal,” she recalls. “We kept his father stabilized, kept him from moving, and just talked with both of them until EMS arrived.”
Marion’s general jump-into-action mentality is indicative of her training but she tends to downplay her role as a nurse in both incidents.
“My dad was a police officer, and my husband was a firefighter so I've grown up around that,” she reasons. “As a nurse, it's probably different than how other people would react. They might cry or panic, whereas I'm [immediately] thinking, 'I've got to do something.' Are there children in the car? Is the driver alive? Is she breathing? Does she have a heartbeat? I go into treatment mode.
“It just wasn't a big deal. I'd hope that anyone would do that for someone, even if you're not in the medical profession and you don't know the symptoms of shock, how to keep a person breathing. I would still hope that someone would stop and try and do something.”
Setting Marion’s humility aside, it’s hard to deny that if you or a loved one ever experiences a highway accident, you want her—or one of the many healthcare workers like her—to be following just behind.