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The Gift of Life: School of Nursing graduate saves a life, gets his feet wet as a new nurse

Posted: June 1, 2017

Josh Ruiz (BSN ’17)

On Mother’s Day, May 14, Josh Ruiz (BSN ’17) gave one mother the best present ever: the life of her child.

On that day, a small child was pulled apparently lifeless out of Josh’s neighborhood’s community pool.

“I heard shouting and turned around and saw what I hope to never see again: a lifeless little girl and chaos everywhere,” Josh said. “I responded immediately and found her foaming out of the mouth, not breathing and without a pulse. My heart sank and my first thought was, ‘This is real!’ I began child CPR and felt a sense of calm as people prayed all around us. After a few cycles, she spit up a ton of water and began to have chest expansion and breathe!”

Little Isabel’s pulse was weak and she was still unresponsive. Her eyes looked lifeless. EMS arrived, and she was rushed to the emergency room, transferred to the pediatric intensive care unit, where health care personnel managed to stabilize her. Fortunately, her hospital stay was brief, and she was able to return home soon afterwards.

“I recently got to visit Isa at home,” Josh said. “She has fully recovered — no brain damage! —with only a cough from the water in her lungs. But that didn’t stop her from pummeling me with pillows!

“She calls me her hero. Some say I saved her, but in all honesty, I was banking on a prayer and a God who saves. I also credit my speed simulation lab experience at UT Austin School of Nursing for helping me get my act together and remain calm in such an intense situation.”

When asked what went through her mind when Isabel was pulled from the pool, Patrice Cookhorne, Isabel’s mother, said, “I was scared initially, but I started praying as God worked through Josh and my sister who is a family nurse practitioner, who helped with CPR. I felt a great sense of relief when the water started pouring out and Isabel began to moan.”

Best of friends: Josh and Isabel

Isabel is now back to her regular routine and preparing for a dance recital.

“She loves Josh! When the they interact, it’s almost as if they have known each other for years,” Ms. Cookhorne said. “I thank God that Josh was there and knew exactly what to do for my little girl. I think that day was confirmation for Josh that he is well prepared and in the right career field.”

Later that week, Josh and approximately 100 other undergraduate students received their diplomas. A few days later, he was commissioned as an ensign in the U.S. Navy and shipped out for his first assignment at the U.S. Naval Hospital in Guam.

“My instructors at the School of Nursing left a handprint on my life, and now I will provide care and leave a handprint on so many patients’ lives,” Josh said. “It is a wonderful profession we get to be a part of as nurses!”

The University of Texas at Austin School of Nursing’s simulation lab that Josh mentioned makes it possible for students to get the experience they need to master nursing knowledge and skills. Supported by a $150,000 grant from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board under the Nursing Innovation Grant Program: Building Lab and Simulation Capacity, the lab shifts clinical hours from traditional patient care clinical situations to lab and simulation activities. Linda Carpenter, former associate professor of clinical nursing, and Leigh Goldstein, assistant professor of clinical nursing, are the primary investigators for the grant.

“Opportunities for students to obtain needed clinical hours to improve nursing skills have decreased over the years,” Dr. Goldstein said. “Because students, such as Josh, can learn a variety of health scenarios in our simulation lab, they are more prepared to perform life-saving acts with a confidence that comes only from practice.”

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