In late February, Daryl Vasquez, a nurse with the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board’s Community Readiness and Support Program in Springfield and a Burke resident, noticed that a CSB client having lunch was choking and could not breathe.
“She managed to get her arms around him and perform the Heimlich maneuver, dislodging the obstruction and most likely saving this man’s life,” Gary Ambrose, a CSB board member, told the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors on April 29.
For her heroic actions, Richard Bowers, chief of the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department, honored Vasquez with a Citizen Life Saving Award.
“Here’s a great example of the everyday continuum of care that our nurses and other community leaders provide,” Bowers said. “This is an example of a nurse saving a life in our community.”
THE PRESENTATION came the same day that the Board of Supervisors designed May 6-12 as Nurses Week in Fairfax County to raise awareness of the importance of nurses and the hard work they do on a daily basis. Ambrose joined Louella Meachem, CSB’s director of nursing services, to accept the proclamation.
“As the proclamation points out, nurses are unsung heroes throughout our county,” Ambrose said.
“The people the CSB serves, people who struggle with mental illness, substance use disorders, and intellectual and developmental disabilities, often face the additional challenge of having little or no access to primary health care. This can lead to early death from diseases that are common and preventable if detected early.”
Nurses throughout the county help to bridge the gap for CSB clients, Ambrose said.
“In addition to providing counseling, crisis intervention, case management and behavioral health support services, the CSB’s 66 nurses screen people for common primary health concerns, such as high blood pressure and diabetes,” Ambrose said. “They, and nurses throughout our community, have saved lives again and again by detecting and addressing serious conditions requiring medical attention.”
Vasquez says she enjoys her job with the Community Readiness and Support Program, and thanked the Fire and Rescue Department for presenting her with the award.
“While I saved a life, I believe as nurses we are also saving lives by educating our clients, one-on-one and in psychosocial group settings,” Vasquez said. “I feel very lucky to be working there.”
FOLLOWING THE INCIDENT, Vasquez provided the man she saved with education about chewing effectively and reducing choking and aspiration risk in the future.
“As nurses it is also important to teach about prevention of serious health risks and disease (heart attack with clients with cardiovascular disease and diabetic complications with clients with diabetes). It was traumatic to experience it for me and CRSP team to experience as well,” Vasquez said.
After reading the proclamation declaring May 6-12 as Nurses Week, Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross acknowledged the importance of nursing and the need to encourage people to apply for nursing school.
“We all know the role that nurses have traditionally played in health care, but now with sort of the new health care iterations, nurses become even more important and provide different kinds of care than perhaps traditionally they used to,” Gross said.