Luck, Quick Response Save BC Postal Clerk
By Stephen Gawlik
Nurses from Boston College Health Services and members of the Campus Ministry staff are credited with helping save the life of Paul Wasnewsky, a clerk in the US Post Office facility in McElroy Commons who was stricken on March 4.
Wasnewsky, interviewed last week while resting at his Medway home, said he had experienced a burning sensation in his chest and went to get a drink from the vending machines in McElroy lobby.
"It felt like heart burn," he recalled. "I didn't think much of it at first, except for the fact that it wouldn't go away."
As Wasnewsky learned afterwards, he was suffering from a mild heart attack.
"By the time I got back up the stairs I wasn't feeling so well and went down the hall to Campus Ministry," said Wasnewsky, who has worked at Boston College for five years.
He then made a fateful choice between sitting alone in an empty office and asking Campus Minister Donald MacMillan, SJ, if he could rest on the couch in his office.
"I'm glad I went to see Don. Who knows what might have happened if I'd been alone."
MacMillan quickly recognized that Wasnewsky might be experiencing a more serious medical problem than heart burn.
"His color looked awful and I thought that he didn't seem well at all," said Fr. MacMillan.
After calling the Boston College Police Department, Fr. McMillan went to find Constance O'Connor, a BC Health Services nurse practitioner, and Connell School of Nursing graduate student Laura Bushee, whom he had spotted dining together in the nearby Eagle's Nest.
The nurses accompanied Fr. McMillan to his office, where they checked Wasnewsky's vital signs and tried to get him to relax. They also administered aspirin from a bottle that Campus Minister Mary Sweeney, SC, kept in her office.
"It was really important that we had that," said O'Connor. "It may have helped him out a lot. He was so nervous, you could tell he knew something was happening to him. At the time it wasn't really clear what it was."
Shortly afterwards, BC Patrol Officer/EMT Patrick Rose and a second officer arrived and assisted the nurses, administering oxygen and measuring Wasnewsky's vital signs. Paramedics then arrived and took Wasnewsky to Newton-Wellesley Hospital as a precaution.
Wasnewsky said blood tests indicated he had a heart attack.
He was put in the intensive care unit for observation and that night was taken to Massachusetts General Hospital for further treatment.
Doctors examining Wasnewsky told him that the quick-acting nurses and campus ministers prevented serious damage from occurring in his heart and possibly saved his life.
"I never thought it would happen to me," said a grateful Wasnewsky. "If it wasn't for those people who helped me I don't know where I'd be. They may have saved my life."