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From parking cars to saving lives: Valet lauded as hero


Glendale Heights – When Eric James was hired as one of the first valets to park patients’ cars at Adventist GlenOaks Hospital, he didn’t think his new job would make him a hero. But that’s exactly what hospital officials called the 21-year-old Bensenville resident after his quick thinking saved the life of a patient who passed out in his car before nearly crashing into the hospital’s front entrance two weeks ago.

James was on the job just five days when a distraught elderly woman ran into the hospital’s Shanahan Emergency and Trauma Center saying her husband was nonresponsive, sitting in the driver’s seat of their car just outside the hospital. James rushed outside with a wheelchair but didn’t immediately see the car because it had driven into a gated construction area at the hospital’s main entrance. He then spotted the vehicle and opened the driver’s door. Suddenly the car rolled forward, prompting James to hop in and hit the emergency brake. The car – a Cadillac – stopped just a few inches short of a construction lift.

A team of employees helped James pull the 81-year-old man from the car.  In the emergency room, a tube was placed into the patient's windpipe to provide oxygen. His heart rate was just 30 beats per minute; an average, healthy man’s heart rate is about 70 beats per minute. The patient then underwent an angiogram and required a balloon pump to be inserted to support the pumping action of the heart. If not for James’ actions, and the expert clinicians of the emergency and cardiology departments, the patient likely wouldn’t have survived long enough for the clinicians to revive him, according to Michelle Hess, RN, director of service line development at Adventist GlenOaks Hospital.

“All of our employees receive training on our chest pain center protocol,” Hess said. “In cases like this where a patient is unresponsive, we teach all employees, regardless of their role in the organization, to think that the patient might be having a heart attack and respond immediately according to the protocol.”

Brinsley Lewis, the hospital’s chief executive officer, praised James for his action.

“You don’t have to be a doctor or nurse to care for patients,” Lewis said. “Eric’s quick but calm response to this emergency is one link in a chain of events that led to a better outcome for this patient.”

As for James, he’s humbled by the accolades from co-workers. He jokes that he should have a new title.

“When I meet people, I tell them I’m vice president of parking services,” James said with a smile. “All kidding aside, I don’t need a title to realize I’m doing worthwhile work and making a difference in people’s lives.”