Helicopter from below

Rising to the Challenge
Story 99

By Kirsten Cutler

It was a normal day of seeing patients at Adventist Health’s medical office in Oakhurst, California, when family nurse practitioner Helen Monnens heard a knock on the exam room door. “I need you,” said Carolina Dave, the clinic’s certified medical assistant.

Positioned in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains and near the entrance to Yosemite National Park, the Oakhurst medical office very rarely sees emergencies. But because the community doesn’t have a hospital nearby, sometimes it becomes a destination for those in medical crisis. This was one of those days.

“A male patient with second and third degree burns to the head, face, neck and right arm came to our door by private vehicle,” Helen recalls. “His torso was covered in gasoline.”

“It was a calm, quiet and professional response by everyone involved."
Group photo of Oakhurst medical staff
Carolina Dave, Helen Monnens and Anna Kurtley

With a patient who was anxious, in pain, and at risk of further complications, Helen performed an initial assessment, and Carolina began to lavage the burns and remove the remaining gasoline. At the same time, patient care coordinator Anna Kurtley jumped into action to coordinate a call to paramedics and carefully documented what was happening.

“It was a calm, quiet and professional response by everyone involved,” Helen says. “I'm amazed at how skillfully Carolina and Anna rose to the challenge.”

Paramedics arrived shortly to help stabilize the patient at the clinic while they waited for a helicopter. The level-headed group of five caregivers kept the patient and his family calm, comfortable, and safe until the patient was transported to the nearest hospital where he could receive specialized treatment.

As a former naval officer, Helen values the power of recognition in heroic situations like the one she encountered that day. “We don’t praise each other enough in the civilian world,” she says.

“We hear many stories of heroics that occur in the inpatient setting, but we don’t hear as many heroic stories from the outpatient setting, yet they often happen,” shares Jackie Liebowitz, Chief Nursing Officer for Adventist Health. “This story makes us proud of our team and the heart they have for people.”