Minnesota nurses save woman’s life during Caribbean vacation

A group of Minnesota nurses recently returned from a week-long Caribbean cruise, which turned out to be an unexpected chance to save a life. 

Jenni, Sandy, Jane, Cindy, Joni, and Ann work at Park Nicollet Methodist Hospital in St. Louis Park. Between the six of them, they have more than 100 years of nursing experience. 

When the group of colleagues and friends packed their bags and boarded a Caribbean cruise, they thought they were off duty. But suddenly, they found themselves in the right place at the right time.

The vacation started off as a celebration for Ann Montanez's 50th birthday, but it turned into something much more on their second day when Montanez noticed a woman in distress in the dining room.

"At this point, I was like, ‘Oh, this is really happening on this cruise,’ and I kind of motion for my friend to like turn around and said, ‘I think this person is starting to choke,’" Montanez said.

The nurses described the woman as elderly and later learned she was from Georgia and vacationing with her husband.

"Her lips were blue. She was very gray. She was not responding at all. I mean, there were quite a few moments where I thought please let her make it," said fellow ER nurse, Jenni Lange.

They noticed that a waiter was trying to give the woman the Heimlich maneuver, but he was not putting enough pressure on her. Despite being off-duty, the nurses sprang into action, utilizing their decades of experience.

"They all took their roles and I had no doubt that she was going to be in great hands. You have to trust your friends and you have to trust your fellow coworkers and know like, that this is what they're trained to do," Montanez said.

"So we got her on her side, and I took the heel of my hand and I wailed on this poor little lady," said Sandy Orinstien.

Cindy Johannes added, "Then, Sandy gave her one more good blow. And then all of a sudden, she was moving a little bit, and then I was able to get the food out and then she took a bunch of deep breaths."

Everyone in the dining room clapped, but one of the most powerful moments came after that, when the ship’s medical crew arrived.

"The doctor, he's like, ‘What happened?’ (We) showed him the piece of meat, and he looked at the lady and he goes, ‘these ladies just saved your life,’" Orinstien said.

The nurses feel that they were meant to be on that cruise and to be able to help that woman. They saw her two days later with her husband, who offered to buy them all lobsters. Instead, they just wanted a group photo.

"Whether you're in a situation in the ER or not, everybody knows their strength. And they go for that. It's just an unspoken thing. It's not it's not like someone's giving assignments. Everybody just goes to their place and does their thing," Orinstien said.

The nurses emphasized the importance of knowing first aid and the significance of every second when it comes to saving lives.