Tragedy Transformed: Nurse Turns Teenage Loss Into Life-Saving Opportunity

Nurse uses CPR to save a teen who experienced sudden cardiac arrest at a track meet

Tragedy Transformed: Nurse Turns Teenage Loss Into Life-Saving Opportunity

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Angie Knannlein-Rahman was a high school senior when a soul-crushing event changed the course of her life. She and her friend Adrienne were jogging during volleyball practice when Adrienne commented that she felt a sudden head rush, hitting her head as she dropped to the ground. Angie yelled for help, holding Adrienne as she gasped for air.

“I thought that hitting her head was her biggest problem,” said Angie. “It never crossed my mind that her heart had stopped.” Their coach performed CPR, but Adrienne ultimately passed away, three days after her 16th birthday. “Adrienne sustained a brain injury because we didn’t help her fast enough, and I carry that with me,” said Angie. “We lost precious moments that day.”

When Angie returned home from school the day of Adrienne’s cardiac arrest, she relayed to her mom the feeling of helplessness she felt while holding Adrienne in her arms. “My mom told me that maybe I was meant to be someone in action who could help, like a nurse,” said Angie.

She took those words to heart, and today, Angie is a registered nurse at Mercy Health ‒ St. Charles Hospital in Oregon, Ohio. And when her life-saving CPR skills were needed at a recent track and field event where she’s also a coach, Angie didn’t hesitate to act.

Adam, a 17-year-old athlete, experienced sudden cardiac arrest during the event. He was turning blue as Angie, along with another nurse and a physician assistant, began chest compressions while waiting for the automated external defibrillator (AED) to arrive, which took seven to 10 minutes because trainers were unsure of its location.

With the use of the AED, Adam began to regain consciousness and fully came around in the ambulance. Many event attendees were surprised that an AED was on-site. “We need to improve the culture of understanding the important role that AEDs play,” said Angie.

Angie’s journey as a nurse and being able to help save patients like Adam has brought her full circle from Adrienne’s passing. It’s something she thinks about often, particularly when she renews her ACLS and BLS training through the American Heart Association. “You are beating someone’s heart for them, and that’s such a tremendous responsibility,” said Angie. “If you’re going to do it, you have to do it correctly. This situation — to get to see Adam have a life, be healthy and flourish from that — is a reward that I can’t even explain.”

Are you a nurse? Send us your save stories to monica.sales@heart.org