MARC CHASE: Nurse's heroism is a shot in the arm

2013-06-25T00:00:00Z MARC CHASE: Nurse's heroism is a shot in the armBy Marc Chase marc.chase@nwi.com, (219) 662-5330 nwitimes.com

What if your job required you to be up to your elbows in bodily fluid, be defecated or urinated on by the drunken or otherwise psychologically compromised and occasionally punched, kicked, cussed at or called names?

I suspect jail and prison guards know what I'm talking about. But I'm really referencing nurses, a truly thankless job. Nurses often see people at their worst, most vulnerable or desperate.

I'm guessing emergency room and intensive care nurses experience some of the worst of these types of interactions. If I absorbed these things during my working hours, I would spend my off time trying to forget it.

That's why thanks are in order for Lowell intensive care nurse Susan Vasko, who chose not to shut it out while off duty last week. Vasko's selflessness came through in a recent stabbing case in Lowell. Her actions are really a reminder of the heroes who walk among us every day -- who we only notice when the bed pans are really hitting the fan.

The 19-year-old victim in this recent case was stabbed multiple times in the back on a recent Sunday evening. Police said the victim had no pulse when Vasko, an ICU nurse who works in the Community Hospitals system, found him near a Lowell gas station behind a dumpster.

By all accounts, Vasko jumped into action, providing CPR that might very well have kept the teen alive.

She did this -- off the clock -- even knowing she was putting herself in the middle of a volatile situation. Court documents indicate Vasko was at the gas station when a red pickup sped past on Jefferson Street with a man in the truck's bed grasping a ladder rack on the truck. The truck came to a stop near the gas station. Then Kevin Crawford, 41, of DeMotte -- who has since been charged as the suspect in this case -- emerged in his underwear, covered in the victim's blood, asking for someone to dial 911, police said.

This would be enough to make most people stare with open mouths -- or even run from the situation out of shock, fear or both. But not Vasko.

The off-duty nurse charged into this surreal scene when she realized someone was hurt, flipping the victim over and immediately providing CPR, police said. Vasko is one of those largely unsung heroes who run into danger when others stand back or run away for their own self-preservation.

I spoke to Vasko over the weekend, and she told me this is what she is programmed to do -- that she doesn't think she is any kind of hero.

But isn't her personal feeling that her actions weren't particularly noteworthy the very foundation upon which heroes exist? This writer thinks so. Thank you, Susan Vasko, for your selfless heroism. We could use more of it around here.

Investigative Editor Marc Chase can be reached at (219) 662-5330 or marc.chase@nwi.com. The opinions are the writer's.

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