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Last Feb. 20 started like any other work day for Carol Grandison.
She took her seat behind the glass-partition of her desk in the Toronto General Hospital (TG) Admitting Department and prepared for another busy shift taking patient registration.
Beside her, along the row of admitting stations, was Videah Persaud, a long-time casual worker in both the Admitting and Emergency departments at TG.
"It was the day after a holiday," recalls Carol. "I asked 'how was your weekend?' and she said she worked in Emerg, but she was off on the Monday and she rested all day."
It didn't take long before their morning work routine turned ominous.
"I mentioned something to her and I looked over," Carol recalls. "Her eyes had begun to close and she started swaying to the left, which was towards me."
Carol knew something was wrong and leapt out of her seat to catch Videah, preventing her from falling.
"Her mouth went to the left, she was gasping and then her eyes were closed and I just thought, oh my god, this is serious," Carol says.
It's Caring Safely Week at UHN. This year's theme is "Celebrating our Safety Successes!"
The story of Videah Persaud is certainly one to celebrate.
Carol's only health training is CPR, but instinctually she knew what to do.
"I shouted: 'Can someone call the code, code please.' And, my co-worker from the other end in the diagnostic test centre, Denise, called the code.
That code was Code Blue – a cardiac arrest and medical emergency.
Carol held Videah in her arms until the TG Code Team arrived with a "crash cart" to take vitals and try to resuscitate Videah.
Videah's heart rate was just 17 beats per minute. A normal rate is 60 to 70 beats per minute.
This was a case of third degree heart block, the worst kind. The heart was only pumping at one third the rate it should. The rest of the body is not getting enough blood, which triggers blood pressure to fall and the body to be unable to perfuse vital organs. That can lead to organ death.
Within minutes, Videah was being wheeled down the hall to Emergency Department (ED).
Dr. David Carr pulls no punches recalling what he saw when Videah was wheeled into TG ED Room Five: "She had that look like she had one foot in the grave."
The goal was to stabilize her heart rate and get her where she needed to be – the Coronary Care Unit's Cath Lab for a permanent pacemaker.
What happened next is nothing short of "miraculous," says Videah, "…sort of like slipping off the edge, but quickly stepping back."
Just 19 minutes later, the TG Emergency team was successful in restoring Videah's heart rate to a normal range. She stabilized and was moved up to the Cath Lab for a pacemaker to be installed.
It's a story that illustrates the work UHN Emergency staff do every day.
"In the Emerg, we are doing some amazing work and I think it's time to celebrate success in the global impact impact that we have at the UHN ER," says Dr. Carr.
Videah Persaud certainly does. Today, she is back at work at TG, grateful for her care and recovery.
"I think it's miraculous," she says. "I am happy that I survived.
"All those who cared for me, I am grateful."
That gratitude extends especially to the woman who triggered the Code Blue call – Carol Grandison.
"I was lucky to be in the right place," Videah says.
Emily Musing, UHN's Chief Patient Safety Officer and VP Quality and Safety, says she is "inspired" to learn of Carol's action to help her colleague.
"Carol demonstrates how one person, with situational awareness and timely response can make a big difference in ensuring safety within UHN," Emily says.
"The many efforts within Caring Safely, whether they relate to Error Prevention Tools, Serious Safety Events, Hospital Acquired Conditions, or workplace safety, are all aimed at supporting a culture in which everyone at UHN is committed to safety, for each other, our patients and their caregivers, and work together to eliminate preventable harm."
As for Carol Grandison, she's modest about the role she played that morning.
"I didn't even think about it," she says. "It was like the norm.
"I am most grateful that I was able to help."
Carol says it's about being mindful every minute you are on the job, no matter the role you play.
"We should always be aware of our surroundings," she says. "If someone says they're not feeling well, just never take it for granted.
"Keep an eye out and if they need help, suggest they speak to your supervisor or your manager; ask them to go to see occupational health, it's what we're here for – always help."