Story by Rodney Jackson, Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center Public Affairs
For her heroics while on vacation, Cene Cleaton, staff nurse, inpatient behavioral health, Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center, received a commander’s coin from Col. Daniel Moore, commander, April 27.
While on a cruise stopover in Mexico earlier this year, Cleaton helped administered lifesaving CPR to 84-year-old Frank McAndrew. McAndrew suffered a cardiac arrest and as a result of her, and fellow travelers, Debra Davis and Garrett Brunson’s first actions, he survived.
“Everyone has a vacation story, and I don’t think anyone will match yours,” said Moore.
Walking in the hot sun after traveling 50 minutes on a catamaran to an adjacent island took a toll on McAndrew.
While boarding the catamaran to return, he fell to the deck and stopped breathing. Cleaton immediately sprang into action and began lifesaving CPR. She continued as fellow travels used towels to shade the team from the hot sun and saltwater waves crashing down upon them, until they reached shore and met up with the paramedics.
“Right before we got to the peer on the main island, Frank [McAndrew] turned over, opened his eyes and said, ‘well that was a weird rest, I’m ready to go back to the cruise ship’, before I told him, “oh no sir,” Cleaton laughed.
McAndrew had heart surgery shortly after the life-changing experience, has returned to daily activities and is getting plenty of exercise in a cardiac rehabilitation program.
He does 36 minutes of vigorous exercise on the treadmill, bike and other machines, three-times-a-week, a swim class two-days-a-week and hits a bucket of golf balls at the driving range every now and then.
“I’m extremely grateful that I had three experts there – Not just one person, which is amazing to me,” McAndrew said. “A lot of times when someone has a cardiac arrest, they are very fortunate if one person around knows how to do CPR, but in my case, I had three experts right there.”
Cleaton works in CRDAMC’s behavioral health clinic and credits the regular training she gets for keeping her nursing skills sharp. Brunson is a volunteer firefighter and Davis had just taken a CPR course prior to the vacation. Cleaton and Brunson performed chest compressions while Brunson helped with breathing.
“I’m not involved with medical care a lot,” said Cleaton. “We do more behavioral health, so the training I get from the organization helped prepare me to jump into a situation that I can provide care.”
Maj. Daniel Cook, psychiatric mental health nurse and chief, inpatient behavioral health, described Cleaton’s work ethic as all about taking care of patients.
“Whether it’s through safety or whatever she can do to make their stay more comfortable, she wants to see people happy,” Cook said.
The cruise line thanked Cleaton for her actions with an appreciation letter, and McAndrew thanked her in a Facebook message before his surgery and when the group met up for dinner after his release from the hospital.
In his Facebook post, McAndrew joked, “I really appreciate you guys working on me and getting me to come around. Wish you hadn’t pushed so hard on my chest – it hurts like hell. Have a good day, hun, thank you so much.