Mike Neal’s Heroism

By Tiffany Nickel

Mike Neal, CRNA, MSN, has been employed at Duke approximately six years and is currently the CRNA team-lead for anesthesia in the Duke Adult EP lab. He has been very happy working at Duke, especially in the EP lab, and enjoys not only being part of an amazing EP anesthesia team, but also the clinical challenges that are associated with caring for cardiac patients in the lab.

Prior to working at Duke, Mike served active duty in the U.S Army for eight years.  During his last duty assignment, he was given the honor of being the chief nurse anesthetist for an Army Forward Surgical Team with the 101st Airborne Division (similar to a M.A.S.H. unit). His team was deployed to Bagdad, Iraq in 2006 for one year.

Last Thursday, after completing an ablation and transporting his patient to the PACU, Mike returned to the 7th floor to put away supplies and leave for the night.  On his way to the locker room, he stopped by the cardiovascular short stay recovery unit (CVSSU) to check on a patient he had cared for earlier that day.  Upon leaving the CVSSU, Mike heard the fire alarm and someone shouting that there was a fire in the nearby dialysis unit.  He immediately dropped his gear and ran toward the area to find the dialysis staff already evacuating patients who had been receiving dialysis treatment.

After verifying that the dialysis unit was fully evacuated, Mike then focused on the neighboring pediatric unit of 7700.  Unfortunately, smoke was starting to filter into 7700. Fearing for the safety of the patients and families, he knew that an evacuation was needed.  He also knew that the CVSSU, being only a few yards away and having 15 empty pre-op bays that were clean and ready for admissions for the next day, would make for a good evacuation option.  He spoke with the 7700 RN staff and outlined an evacuation plan.

As a team, they quickly evacuated the patients, visitors and staff from 7700 to the CVSSU area. During the evacuation, they had a young female visitor collapse in the hallway from what appeared to be an asthma attack exacerbated by smoke inhalation. Luckily, the team was able to help get her transported safely to the emergency department for further treatment.

“The 7700 and CVSSU nursing staff exemplified the meaning of teamwork by working together in an efficient manner; making the evacuation process run as quickly and safely as possible,” says Mike.  Within a short period of time, all of the 7700 pediatric patients and visitors were accounted for and settled into the CVSSU bays.  Afterwards, they worked on gathering and organizing medications and supplies and made sure the specific needs of the patients were identified and met in order to prevent any lapse of care.

This evacuation process would not have gone as smoothly if it was not for the level of dedication, skill, training, and compassion of the 7700 and CVSSU nurses involved in the evacuation.  Having been deployed in a war zone, Mike fully appreciates the importance of teamwork, especially when providing health care in challenging situations.  The dialysis unit fire incident demonstrated that Duke staff members can rise to any occasion and work together as a team to deliver a high level of care to patients, even in crisis situations.  The actions demonstrated in the evacuation that night is a testimony to the high quality of staff that Duke Medical Center employs and what helps to make Duke a premiere health institution.  Mike is very proud and thankful to be part of the DUHS team and looks forward to his future working at Duke.

Chris KeithMike Neal’s Heroism