Two Contra Costa Health Services nurses were recently awarded a “Certificate of Heroism” after saving the life of a co-worker who suffered cardiac arrest at John A. Davis Juvenile Hall.
Nurses Liz Maaske and Mary Vesey, as well as emergency responders, were given the certificate by the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Division of Contra Costa Health Services for saving Edward Taraskewich, the lead cook at Juvenile Hall. Thanks to Maaske and Vesey, Taraskewich was able to celebrate his 63rd birthday earlier this month with his wife.
“I would never have seen this day without Liz and Mary,” said Taraskewich. “They’re the reason I’m here because they were the first responders.”
On the morning of January 6, the nurses immediately responded to a call for medical help in the kitchen of the Martinez juvenile detention facility. When they arrived, Taraskewich had no pulse and wasn’t breathing. Maaske initiated CPR while Vesey prepared the automated external defibrillator (AED), a portable electronic device that shocks the heart into a regular rhythm. They were able to revive Taraskewich before paramedics arrived.
“God was with us that day, that’s all I can say,” Maaske said.
During their combined 35 years working as nurses in Juvenile Hall, Maaske and Vesey never had had to use CPR or an AED before, although they had trained many times on how to apply the life-saving techniques. “You can practice a billion times, but you still won’t know how you’re going to act in the event of an emergency until you’re actually confronted with one,” Vesey said.
Both Maaske and Vesey stressed how important the AED was in saving the life of their friend—and how easy it was to use. AEDs use voice prompts, lights and text messages to tell the rescuer what steps to take. “People shouldn’t be afraid to use an AED because they make them so user friendly,” Vesey said. “The machine tells you what to do.”
More than 350,000 people suffer cardiac arrests outside of a hospital setting every year in the United States, and less than 8 percent survive, according to the American Heart Association. Doing CPR doubles the victim’s chance of survival. Defibrillation, which means delivering an electric shock to the heart, is the only known treatment to restore the heart to a normal rhythm after cardiac arrest, and it must be done quickly. Studies show that the victim’s chance of survival decreases 10 percent for every minute that defibrillation is delayed.
Many businesses and facilities keep AEDs available in case of emergency. Contra Costa EMS estimates there are more than 1,000 registered and unregistered AEDs in the county.
Maaske and Vesey are employees of the Detention Health Services program of Contra Costa Regional Medical Center (CCRMC) and Health Centers. CCRMC and Health Centers is part of Contra Costa Health Services. The nurses are assigned to Juvenile Hall, which is managed by county’s Probation Department.