The Life She Saved

I was cleaning out some computer files when I came across the folder from my old Felician University office laptop containing all (or most) of my student letters of recommendation. On a lark, I decided to look some of my former students up. Some might call this “stalking”; I call it Pedagogical Outcomes Analysis.

Here’s one of them, an RN-to-BSN student for whom I wrote a letter back in 2010, when she was applying for a position as a school nurse. I’m pleased to say that she got that position, and then some:

When Mahwah resident and Ramapo Ridge school nurse Donna Ciongoli took a day trip with her sons, sisters, and nephews last month, she wasn’t expecting a life-changing experience. But, she got one thanks to a 6-year-old she’d never met before.

Ciongoli had originally planned to take a daytrip to the Jersey Shore on July 20. But, rain in the forecast prompted her and her family members to opt for a closer beach experience, at Lake Wawayanda in Vernon. …

The pediatric nurse had just returned to the beach from the water after noon when she saw a young boy being carried from the water.

“He was completely blue, a royal blue almost,” she said. “He was not breathing and he had no pulse whatsoever.”

Yes, reader, she saved his life. Or, at any rate, played a crucial role in doing so.

What’s amusing is that Donna was in my ethics class, where we covered Peter Singer’s famous example of the drowning child. I can’t remember what she said about it, but I certainly have reason to remember what she did about it. I wish I could say that my class is what did the trick, but I doubt it. I wonder what snippets of my class she does remember, eleven years after the fact. Not that it really matters all that much. Now that we’re both in health care, I suspect that Donna could teach me more than I ever taught her.

The news item doesn’t tell us why Donna did what she did (which I’d love to hear), but tells us what she learned from having done it:

“I feel like he was put in my life for a reason, I learned a lot from this little boy,” Ciongoli continued. 

“It really made me realize that everything can get done later. I was going too fast. I needed to slow down, and spend more time with my kids, because you never know what’s going to happen. It just made everything more simple to me.”

Not, I suppose, the Moral Philosopher-Approved Answer, but the Rescuer’s Own Answer. Good enough for me. And, I’d like to think, for one grateful kid, now 17 years old. Perhaps looking to go to college? Your turn, buddy. Time for the life you can save.

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