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Real life drama: Nursing student saves actor's life
Tara Miller
Tara Miller
It wasn’t exactly Shakespeare’s All’s Well That Ends Well, but the story did have a perfect ending.

In early February, up-and-coming Broadway star Jordan Nichols was in town rehearsing for his part in the stage production of Pippin when he was cast into an unexpected role: the young actor had a near-death experience after he collapsed at The Blue Monkey restaurant in Midtown. Fortunately, U of M Loewenberg School of Nursing student Tara Miller was around to play more than just a supporting role.

Miller, who works at the restaurant, had just gone off duty when she heard what she thought was a bar stool fall over.

“I heard the thump. It was just behind me and I saw that it was Jordan and I called his name and he did not respond,” said Miller, a second semester student. “I immediately went down and checked for a pulse. I asked his friends who knew him better if he has diabetes or could be suffering from a seizure — you are not supposed to do CPR on a person who is having a seizure.

“I then began CPR. I checked his airway, no vomit or anything, and started the breathing and chest compressions. A pilot (FedEx employee Rick Wade) and my manager at the restaurant then started helping me and we took turns with the pushing and breathing on him.”

Miller said as she continued CPR, she would get “a very weak, thready pulse” that would then go away. Bystanders who called 911 twice got busy signals, but eventually the fire department arrived.

“They had the defibrillator out. They shocked him I’d say about seven times, and got one regular heartbeat. They gave him 500 cc’s of adrenaline and still got nothing. They worked on him for 30 minutes and could not get him stabilized and then they moved him. When they carried him out, everyone sat in silence. Most of us thought we had witnessed a young man die.

“The scariest thing was, there was a woman at my side and she kept saying, ‘Jordan, Jordan, squeeze my hand,’ and she was very upset. I asked her, ‘Ma’am, who are you?’ She said, ‘I am his mother, please fix him.’ I told her I was just a student but was trying.”

Miller said it was the longest 12 minutes of her life.

“It was mixed thoughts. Textbook stuff was flying around in my head that I had learned in school. I am CPR certified, but I have only done it on a mannequin and it is a lot different when you are doing it on a real person.”

Miller said she owed her quick actions to the U of M’s Loewenberg School of Nursing.

“This program is really awesome. It is so hard, but the teachers in the school, this is their life. They are so helpful. All were nurses before. They tell you stories about their experiences and they give you all kinds of resources to help you study.

“I have friends who have dropped out of other schools and are on the waiting list for our nursing school. That is the kind of reputation it has. You get what you pay for.”

She said before being able to attend the nursing school, students must become certified in CPR.

Jordan Nichols, at right, in director Jonathan Butterell’s production <br />of <em>Giant</em>.
Jordan Nichols, at right, in director Jonathan Butterell’s production
of Giant.
Nichols, who has had roles in The Fantasticks, Gypsy and Giant, had taken leave from his acting jobs based in New York City to come to Memphis to play in his father Jackie Nichols’ (BSEd ’72) production of Pippin at the new Playhouse on the Square.

After the incident, doctors determined that the 24-year-old actor suffers from a genetic heart condition referred to as Brugada syndrome, which causes sudden and unexpected cardiac death in apparently healthy individuals. He since has had a permanent defibrillator placed in his chest.

“A lot of times it happens to people in their sleep,” said the 2003 graduate of White Station High School. “If there is no one there to revive you, well, it is like having a heart attack: your heart stops and that is basically it.

“Fortunately I was in a place where I had people around me who knew what to do. It was a near-death experience. My heart definitely stopped. It was lucky for me that Tara and the guy who worked at FedEx were there to help in reviving me until the paramedics got there.”

— by Greg Russell

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