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October 24th, 2017

Weekend Getaway Takes Detour as Nurse Stops to Help Save a Stranger

By In the Loop

Weekend getaway, driving

Angela Tukuafu was driving when her heart started racing and she became short of breath. The last thing she remembers is pulling over. Thankfully a couple noticed the parked car and stopped to help.


Melanie Olson's motto might be, "If you see something, do something." When she saw a leg sticking out of a parked car while driving by a parking lot, her nursing antenna went up, and she took action.

As a medical-surgical nurse at Mayo Clinic Health System in Cannon Falls, Melanie Olson is used to providing a high level of personalized care to a variety of patients — in the hospital. But it seems her nursing antenna doesn't turn off when she hits the streets.

As the Hastings Star Gazette reports, Olson and her boyfriend, Jerry Harrington, were leaving their hometown of Hastings, Minnesota, for the weekend when they noticed something peculiar: a parked vehicle with a leg sticking out of it. As the paper reports, Olson instructed Harrington to turn their car around so they could take a closer look. Olson got out of the car to check on the woman and immediately told Harrington to call 911. "It looked really bad," she tells the paper. "She was cold to the touch."

The woman, Angela Tukuafu, tells the paper she'd left work that day "feeling fine," but as she drove to visit a family member her heart began racing and she became short of breath. Her husband, who she was talking to on the phone at the time, told her to pull over, so she drove into a parking lot. She tells the paper she doesn't remember much after that. Her husband heard her stop breathing.

Less than five minutes later, Olson and Harrington pulled up. The paper reports that Olson pulled Tukuafu from her car while Harrington dialed 911. Olson and Harrington then "traded off doing two or three rounds of CPR until first responders arrived." Tukuafu then had to be shocked multiple times to stabilize her heart rhythm. Once at the hospital, the paper reports that she was told she had Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, a condition in which an extra electrical pathway between the heart's upper and lower chambers causes a rapid heartbeat, and one for which the paper reports "she's already had surgery" and "is now doing well."

Tukuafu credits her recovery to the quick response of Olson and Harrington. "God definitely put them where I needed them," she tells the paper. While Olson and Harrington tell the paper "they do not feel like heroes," the city of Hastings had other ideas. City officials recently honored them during a City Council meeting, where "they received plaques for their life-saving efforts."

Official recognition aside, Olson and Harrington tell the paper the fact that Tukuafu "is alive and can continue to be a mother to her three children is all the thanks they need." They say it was just a "gut feeling" that made them turn around to check on Tukuafu that day. And they urge us all to do the same if we find ourselves in a similar situation. "If you feel like something is wrong, go back, check it out," Olson tells the paper.

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Tags: cardiology, Employee Stories, Mayo Clinic Health System in Cannon Falls, Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome

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