HCA Healthcare-affiliate nurse saves kid in hot car; honored by United States Coast Guard

Woman holding certificate and standing with two men and two boys

Trident Medical Center’s Deleah Pickler, BSN, RN, CNOR, recently found her medical training and instincts put to the test when she received an alert on her neighborhood Facebook page about a missing three-year-old boy.  Pickler, who has two children, walked down the sidewalk of her home searching for the child and soon heard sounds coming from a car.

“It was daytime and the kids in the neighborhood were playing a game of hide-and-seek,” recalled Pickler.  “The child had climbed into an unlocked car, but he couldn’t get out.  I opened the door and saw him barely moving.  He was unresponsive and red all over.  The temperature in the car was well over 100 degrees.”

It was obvious to Pickler the child was in distress.  “I picked him up and dialed 9-1-1 as I took him to our house where I started putting cold water and ice packs on him.  His body temperature cooled and by the time EMS arrived he was showing signs of becoming more conscious.  He was taken to the hospital where he recovered.  Thankfully, he’s doing well with no signs of the experience that was nearly fatal.”

For her quick action, Pickler, an operating room nurse at the HCA Healthcare affiliate hospital in Charleston, S.C., was recognized by Rear Admiral Peter Brown, Commander of U.S. Coast Guard District Seven in Miami, Florida.  Pickler’s husband, Senior Chief Justin Pickler, serves as the Officer in Charge of Coast Guard Station in Georgetown, SC.

At a ceremony on her behalf, Brown said, “Her response that day is a testament to her vigilance and her willingness to engage when a situation required her help.  She had the specialized skills needed to ensure the child was medically okay.  It was her will to get involved that made the difference and saved the child’s life and that’s a testament to not just her, but also to the whole Coast Guard family.”

“I was at the right place at the right time,” said Pickler.  “I’m happy I had the skillset and knew how to respond.  We hear a lot about the dangers of leaving children in cars.  I hope we’re mindful of also leaving cars unlocked.  It’s summertime and children like to play outside.  To a child an unlocked car can look like a hideout.  The temperature rises quickly in cars in the summer and it doesn’t take long for the heat to overpower the child.”

In the United States, at least 16 children have died already this year after being left in hot cars, and on average, 37 children die from vehicular heatstroke each year, according to the National Safety Council.

Pie chart showing cause of car heatstroke deaths in children from 1998-2017

“The temperature in a hot car can rise from 90 degrees to 120 degrees in 30 minutes,” said Preston Wendell, MD, Emergency Services Medical Director of Trident HeaIth, “and that rapid increase in temperature can be deadly to a child in less than 10 minutes. It’s a tragedy that can be avoided.”

Let’s help reduce the number of deaths from heatstroke by remembering to A.C.T.:

  • Avoid heatstroke-related injury and death by never leaving a child alone in a car, not even for a minute. And make sure to keep the car locked so kids don’t get in on their own.
  • Create reminders by putting something in the back of your car next to your child such as a briefcase, purse or a cell phone that is needed at your final destination. This is especially important if you’re not following your normal routine.
  • Take If you see a child or pet alone in a car, call 911. Emergency personal want you to call. They are trained to respond to these situations. One call could save a life.

Just days after her life-saving experience, Trident Medical Center shared a video of Pickler on the hospital’s Facebook page, where she recalled the event and urged families to create neighborhood Facebook pages.  “I believe our page and the alert being sent quickly was instrumental in saving the life of this child.”

The video has been received more than 50,000 views.

We celebrate this 13-year nurse whose quick action saved the life of a child. She credits her mom for entering healthcare, specifically nursing, in the first place.

“I knew from a very early age that I had an interest in caring for others.  My mother went through nursing school when I was 14 years old,” she said. “From the moment on I knew exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up.”

Woman wearing scrubs and surgical cap in operating room

Deleah Pickler, an operating room nurse at Trident Medical Center, is one of 87,000 nurses affiliated with HCA Healthcare. HCA Healthcare nurses are employed in 178 hospitals and approximately 1,800 sites of care in 20 U.S. states and in the U.K. 

HCA Healthcare 50th Anniversary
In 1968, HCA Healthcare was conceived by two physicians and an accomplished business leader — Dr. Thomas Frist Sr., Dr. Thomas Frist Jr., and Jack Massey. This year, HCA Healthcare celebrates its golden anniversary and the culture of caring established by our three founders 50 years ago. To help us celebrate our 50th year, we’ll share stories here that reflect HCA Healthcare’s mission – above all else, the care and improvement of human life – and our pledge to improve life and make history for the next 50 years and beyond.

About HCA Healthcare

HCA Healthcare, one of the nation's leading providers of healthcare services, is comprised of 183 hospitals and more than 2,300 sites of care, in 20 states and the United Kingdom. Our more than 283,000 colleagues are connected by a single purpose — to give patients healthier tomorrows.

As an enterprise, we recognize the significant responsibility we have as a leading healthcare provider within each of the communities we serve, as well as the opportunity we have to improve the lives of the patients for whom we are entrusted to care. Through the compassion, knowledge and skill of our caregivers, and our ability to leverage our scale and innovative capabilities, HCA Healthcare is in a unique position to play a leading role in the transformation of care.

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