St. David’s Georgetown Hospital named Louis Soto-Chavez, a medical-surgical nurse, 2017 Caregiver of the Year. This award recognizes employees who demonstrate St. David’s HealthCare’s core values in their interactions with patients, visitors, physicians and fellow staff members.
Soto-Chavez was selected because of his willingness to provide care to those in need and to rise to any medical emergency, as he did when he rendered aid for several hours to help save a woman in distress on an international flight last year.
Soto-Chavez has been a Medical-Surgical nurse at St. David’s Georgetown for the past two years and says he was surprised to receive the award.
In November 2016, he and his wife were heading to Rome on vacation and about half-way, he heard an announcement that the flight crew was looking for a doctor. He found himself aside an Italian medical student and an EMT.
“I found a patient who was pale and sweating profusely,” Soto-Chavez recalls. “She was not responsive and we spent a quick moments assessing what kind of expertise and knowledge we had between us.”
Soto-Chavez says he suspected she was diabetic and suffering from dehydration; common during travel. “There was no way to check her blood sugar but we contacted a hospital at Philadelphia and asked the doctor on call if we could give her juice. To make things worse, she spoke only Italian but we were blessed and lucky that our medical student could translate.”
At one point they considered asking the pilot to make an emergency landing. The doctor indicated it would not be necessary and they continued the trip, giving her juice and oxygen. Part of the job included keeping her calm to avoid heart complications, also common with diabetes.
They considered giving the patient aspirin but Soto-Chavez, recalling his training, asked if she was allergic; she was. Administering aspirin could have killed her or at least caused a serious side effect so he again was saving her life.
He says it felt like 30 minutes, but he administered care for more than five hours until the plane landed in Italy. The patient was first off the plane onto a waiting gurney and medical team. “I was just hoping all that time that nothing worse would happen. As a nurse, you work the problem in front of you. I was most gratified to see my patient regain her color and wave to me as she was wheeled away. I just kept thinking, this is someone’s mother or grandmother and I know she’s out there again, feeling better.”
Soto-Chavez says he loves the challenge, seeing people recover and watching their natural resilience. “I want to continue being a nurse, learning and enjoying new opportunities to make a difference.”
His only regret is that he never found out her name or how she fared so if anyone knows of a patient transferred from a Delta flight to an Italian hospital in November 2016, please let him know!