Man reunites with nurse who saved his life in Cherokee Park - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Man reunites with nurse who saved his life in Cherokee Park

Jeff Backus hugged the nurse who saved his life, Elise Hawkins. Jeff Backus hugged the nurse who saved his life, Elise Hawkins.
Jeff Backus Jeff Backus
Elise Hawkins Elise Hawkins
Sgt. Roy Vandiver Sgt. Roy Vandiver

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) – A life saving angel is how one Louisville man described a nurse who saved his life in Cherokee Park.

Jeff Backus went into cardiac arrest while out for a run. An ER nurse just happened to be nearby. On Friday Backus was able to the meet the nurse and tell her thanks face to face.

If you ask Backus he will tell you he was destined to meet Elise Hawkins. "Everything I've heard, you were meant to be there," Backus told Hawkins on Friday. "God sent you, like I said you are my angel."

[PREVIOUS STORY: Cardiac arrest victim hopes to find nurses who saved his life]

"Glad to help," she quietly replied.

On Sunday, April 27, Backus went for a run in Cherokee Park. Hawkins, who is an ER nurse at Norton Audubon usually works the weekends, but took that day off so she could continue to train for the Louisville Ironman this summer.

After biking 63 miles and running five, Hawkins noticed a man down in the park.

"I ran towards him and I didn't feel a pulse and I looked at the lady and I said you need to call 911 and I just started CPR," said Hawkins.

The Cherokee Triangle Art Fair was going on the same day making traffic a problem for Louisville Metro EMS. For 20 minutes Hawkins continued CPR only taking a short break.

"There was another girl that was a nurse that stopped to say that she could help me," said Hawkins. "There was a guy that used to be a paramedic and he did CPR for probably about three minutes, but I think everybody was so freaked out, they just kind of stood there and watched."

Hawkins knew Backus needed to be shocked. Once EMS arrived it was clear without Hawkins, this would have turned out a lot different.

"I don't think he would have made it all," said LMEMS Sgt. Roy Vandiver. "With the delay we had due to the traffic and CPR being better started early on, the earlier CPR is started the better chance somebody has for survival."

"I didn't know what you would look like," Hawkins told Backus. "You look good."

"I feel good," he replied. "I had a double bypass a week ago today."

This story has a happy ending. Backus is feeling great out of the hospital and back on his feet.

"This kind of really reinforces why I am a nurse," said Hawkins. "I like helping people."

While Hawkins will tell you she was just doing her job in the eyes of many it was so much more.

"She was unanimously voted to receive a Good Samaritan award, so we wanted to let you know Elise today that you are going to be a proud recipient of Norton Healthcare Good Samaritan award," Renee Cecil, Norton Audubon Emergency Department manager.

"We need more people out there that know CPR and not be afraid to do what Elise did," said Major Michael Will, LMEMS. "Elise is the hero here."

"You will always be somebody special to me," Backus told Hawkins.

On June 12 at the Norton Healthcare Board of Trustees meeting Hawkins will be honored with the Good Samaritan Award. It is the highest award that Norton Healthcare gives out. 

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