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Linda M. Perez, a licensed vocational nurse at Las Cruces’ Veterans Affairs Community Based Outpatient Clinic, said she relied on a nurse’s intuition that something was wrong when a veteran didn’t show up for a scheduled appointment at the clinic in November.
“It was out of character for him because he was always very punctual for all of his appointments,” said Perez, who has been a VA nurse for four years, after working as a hairdresser for 23 years.
The patient, a Las Cruces resident who wasn’t identified by VA officials because federal privacy laws, suffers from diabetes and takes insulin to treat his illness. When he didn’t show up for his appointment, Perez called him. Speaking to him over a cell phone, Perez said she realized something was wrong when his speech was slow and he couldn’t provide details of his location.
“He was in his car, driving,” Perez said. “He sounded disoriented but aware of what he was doing. He couldn’t tell me where he was. So, I called 911, and we were finally able to get him to tell us the cross streets he was near.”
Later, it was determined the patient had gone into diabetic shock, and his blood sugar level had dropped sharply after taking insulin but failing to eat anything. Perez and emergency dispatchers were able to find the patient, who was taken to the hospital for treatment.
“He had a prior episode,” Perez recalled. “He had an appointment here at the clinic, for tests, when the same thing happened.”
Michael L. Amaral, director of the El Paso Veterans Affairs Healthcare System, praised Perez during the recognition ceremony.
“Everybody hears the not-so-good things. I want them to hear the great things happening here,” Amaral said. “Through her quick actions she was able to save a life.”
Crystal Davis-Whited, nurse manager at the Las Cruces VA clinic, added, “Imagine what could have happened if Linda hadn’t acted so quickly, and the patient had been involved in an accident.”
“It’s a nurse’s intuition,” said Lenore S. Enzel, nurse executive for the El Paso VA Healthcare System. “We get close with many of our patients, and a good nurse, like Linda, is able to determine when something isn’t right. We get to know our patients. Nurses just have a sixth sense. We’re all about observation.”
Amaral said the El Paso VA is becoming more proactive in the treatment and follow-up of veterans who require medical care, especially after the Jan. 6, 2015 fatal shootings of a doctor and a veteran at the El Paso VA clinic, adjacent to William Beaumont Army Medical Center, at Fort Bliss. He said the VA is committed to providing improved services to veterans.
“We’re working to do the right thing for our veterans,” said Amaral, a retired U.S. Army colonel.
Originally posted on Las Cruces Sun-News