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In Honor of My Husband's "First" Birthday

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02/03/2016

By Gabrielle "Gabby" Nae'ole

EMS is in my DNA. My parents moved to Hawaii from Oklahoma to work in the medical field – my dad in EMS and mom as an X-Ray technician. I cannot remember a time when I didn’t want to be an EMT. My dad was a paramedic, and I grew up in stations and around other medics. My earliest memories are listening to the station radio and watching my dad respond to 911 calls.

I finished EMT school in December 2013 and was hired by AMR in May 2014, along with nine of my classmates.

During my first few months as an EMT, I worked alongside many remarkable medics, each with a unique gift. The wise words and efficient actions of a few stood out in my time of need. I remember being so nervous on my first day as an EMT. My hands shook, and I had trouble taking the patient’s blood pressure. One shift I was scheduled with Pat Gragas, an experienced paramedic and team leader at the busiest station on Maui. Pat always reminded me to stay calm and keep breathing. I guess there were moments I was so tense I’d been holding my breath!

Danh Richardson is an incredible paramedic (MICT) with whom I worked through clinical rotations in school and then running my first CPR in progress call. I remember my hands being so sweaty that I had to put on gloves before leaving the station. Every time I would glance at him during the call, he was cool, calm and collected, which helped me learn to be cool, calm and collected also. Andrea Moeller, an MICT with whom I have been on a few CPR in progress calls, is another one of the most composed people I have encountered. For example, many professionals have struggled to learn high-performance CPR – it’s so different from standard CPR. However, I can remember watching how patient Andrea was as she trained firefighters on the new techniques.

My Time of Need

On Thursday, January 15, 2015, my husband, Kepa, had just gotten home from paddling. He gave me a hug and walked to the back of the house. A few moments later, I heard what sounded like agonal breathing. I found my husband lying flat on our bed with seizure-like activity. He didn’t have a pulse, so I pulled him to the floor, called 911 and began CPR.

During CPR, every little piece of knowledge my instructors and partners shared with me gave me the ability to get through the most horrifying experience of my life. I remember hearing Pat’s voice saying “stay calm, you are more efficient when you're calm.” I saw Dahn's relaxed face and smooth demeanor, just like he’d had during my first-ever code, and I knew I needed to keep my composure so I could help Kepa. I heard Andrea's patient words in my head calmly and diplomatically directing me through high-performance CPR.

I performed CPR for approximately eight minutes when Maui P.D. arrived and applied their AED. After the fourth shock, Kepa had a pulse and within a few minutes he was conscious. He had no recollection of what had just happened and felt he was “robbed” of having a near-death experience! We recently celebrated Kepa’s birthday – the first since his cardiac arrest. Kepa is amazing – doing everything he did before, and even more.

Kepa and Gabby

In Hawaii, “ohana” means “family.” The sense of ohana at AMR is so strong it brings tears to my eyes. I know I have a huge extended family all across the U.S., and that each day every member of this family – from paramedics to mechanics to support staff – does their part to take care of each other and our communities. I feel so lucky to have been home at the time of Kepa’s crisis and to have the experience and knowledge that each one of you has shared with me.

So with this, I thank all of you. Thank you for believing in every new EMT, new paramedic or new VST. Thank you for sharing your knowledge so we can all grow and learn together. I hope one day a new EMT will come to me and say, “I heard your voice coaching me…”

Gabby (far right) and coworkers at a community event

Gabby Nae'ole, her husband and seven children live in Hali’imaile, Maui. She is an EMT for AMR and plans to attend Paramedic/MICT school in 2017 so she can continue learning how to better serve her community.