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July 24, 2017

Nursing instinct kicks in

Moments before, everything had seemed normal in the hot, humid gym as students moved from the 45-minute boxing portion of their class into the yoga session. Then someone noticed that one of the men, instead of getting into the downward dog position, was lying face down on his yoga mat, gasping for breath. When the instructor yelled “Call 911!” almost everyone fled the crowded room and ran into the lobby — except for a Spartan nurse who was in her first year of nursing.

Amy Bakalar, MSU alumna and now a registered nurse at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Michigan, remained calm as she rolled the man over onto his back, asking another member of the class, who had basic life support training, to count for her as she began chest compressions. She focused on the beat of the 1977 Bee Gees’ hit song “Stayin’ Alive” as she knelt alongside the patient, performing deep chest compressions.

She had learned that the song has a rhythm of 103 beats per minute — which is close to the recommended rate of at least 100 chest compressions per 60 seconds that should be delivered during CPR. The only information they had about the patient was that he may be diabetic.

“My instinct as an RN was to approach the scene and check for pulse, breathing, or any signs of life. There were none,” Bakalar says. “I knew what I had to do, so I jumped right in and began CPR. My tiny strength felt powerful!”

Some of the gym’s trainers stepped in to help Bakalar, and they continued the compressions and used the portable defibrillator several times before the ambulance arrived.

“Some people are afraid to take action out in their communities. But as a Spartan nurse, I feel that courage to step up and not be afraid to speak up and take action,” Bakalar says. “My education and training at MSU prepared me for taking on leadership roles and accepting challenges.”

Bakalar’s advice to others: “Never think that you’re too weak to do anything. Take life with an open mind and pass on something to someone else if you can. Keep paying it forward and know that we’re all connected and on this journey together.”

She says the most rewarding aspect of her career so far has been giving back to her community in everyday life — and paying forward her knowledge to future nurses. As a preceptor, she helps train future nurses from various colleges throughout Michigan.

“Realizing how calm I was during that situation in the gym, and knowing that I had a lot of help around even in a crisis situation, makes me feel more confident,” Bakalar says.

“I think about that situation in the gym time and time again. Although the man died later that day at the hospital, it was the Spartan nurse in me that gave it everything to care for another soul in this world.”