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Fielding the call: FNP grad student saved life on driver by performing off-duty CPR

Woman standing with parents

Kaylene Freitag, middle, with her parents Amy and John, while receiving a Citizen Partnership Award last September from the Bloomington Police Department.

So many of life’s moments are a random collision of events meeting up at the most opportune times. Last summer, one person’s last-minute field of study choice saved the life of another.

Years earlier, Illinois State family nurse practitioner graduate student Kaylene Freitag was running out of time to decide an avenue to pursue post high school. Without anybody in her family having any medical professional experience, she decided to enroll at St. Francis Medical Center College of Nursing in Peoria.

She quickly became passionate about the field and has worked as a nurse since 2013. Helping those in need was a big draw.

On June 26, 2019, Freitag was commuting home from a typical shift at OSF Allergy Clinic that ended at 5 p.m. She was driving behind a car that suddenly swerved. At first, she didn’t think much of it. But it kept swerving. She started realizing something might be wrong with driver and followed the car.

“I just felt like there was going to be a bad outcome,” Freitag said. “You just never know who is going to be around, so I just wanted to be in case something happened. That’s what we are trained to do.”

The driver crashed into a fence on Veterans Parkway near Oakland Avenue in Bloomington, thus stopping the car.

Freitag took over from there. She got out of her vehicle and ran over to put the crashed car in park and take the keys out of the ignition.

The driver was unconscious and breathless. It was clear he had a medical emergency. Instincts kicked in for Freitag, a native of nearby Stanford. While trained in CPR, she had never actually performed it on a person in real life. But here she was with no precious time to spare. She began the procedure on the victim, who was looking death straight in the eyes.

“There was no moment where I had to stop and think about what I had to do,” Freitag said. “I really did feel in control of the situation and knew what I had to do right away. It was pretty second-nature. I was simply doing the best I could.”

“You just never know who is going to be around, so I just wanted to be in case something happened. That’s what we are trained to do.”

Fellow concerned citizens also gathered at the crash and called 911 while Freitag was attempting to pulsate the victim. She said it was an encouraging sign of community that that many people stopped to help someone they didn’t know.

Freitag said it was about 10 minutes before officers and EMT’s arrived on the scene. She had done a total of three rounds of CPR, yet still assisted officers with the procedure once they got involved with the rescue operation.

The victim was eventually revived, and an emotionally spent Freitag continued her commute home. She just happened to work overtime on that day.

“We are pleased to recognize Kaylene’s selfless act in providing lifesaving assistance to a stranger,” Bloomington Assistant Chief of Police Greg Scott said in a post honoring Freitag’s Citizen Partnership Award last September. “Acts like these are notable because they don’t happen every day.”

Some time after the crash, Freitag received a thank you note from the victim’s mother. If it weren’t for Freitag’s timing and subsequent instincts late last June, she might have lost her son.

While the victim was re-gifted the rest of his life, Freitag received confirmation of her own path and why she chose a field that requires her to be ready to help on a moment’s notice.

“It just made me reassured of my skills if that would happen in the future,” said Freitag, who hopes to pursue a career in women’s healthcare once she completes her master’s degree. “Don’t second guess yourself, and do what instincts tell you and be confident in your skills.”