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Published on October 29, 2015

Denise Galvin’s nurse instincts help save a child

Denise Galvin’s nurse instincts help save a child

Denise Galvin

Denise Galvin, RN

Cape Cod Hospital nurse Denise Galvin, RN, had just one thing on her mind Friday evening, after working a long day in the cardiac catheterization lab – getting home to her family and relaxing. But, she soon discovered her day of caring for others was far from over.

After leaving the hospital around 7:30 p.m., Denise headed home to West Yarmouth along Route 28. A few minutes into her ride, out of the darkness she suddenly saw a car coming straight at her. “The car actually almost hit me head-on,” she said.

Narrowly missing her, the car continued on its way, leaving Denise shaken and confused. Seconds later, she came upon another car stopped in the road with flames coming from under the hood. That’s when her nurse’s instincts kicked in. Leaving her car in the road, she ran to the burning car and saw a woman slumped in the driver’s seat.

“I got out and was banging on the window and the woman was not answering me,” she said. “I ran back to my car to see if I had anything that I could break the window with…I’m looking for anything.”

Knowing time was of the essence, Denise ran back to the car and a little girl opened the back door and said “hello?” Denise, who has worked at CCH for nearly 11 years – seven-plus in the Emergency Center and three in the Cath Lab – knew she had to work fast to get the child to trust her and leave the car with her.

“By that time, there were a lot of people gathered around and everyone was screaming for a fire extinguisher,” she said.

Not knowing the condition of the woman in the driver’s seat, Denise wanted to shield the 6-year-old girl from the scene. The girl was reluctant to leave the car without her glasses, but Denise convinced her to go with her to her car, draping her jacket over her to keep her warm.

“I was trying to guard her and tried to block her with my body from the scene,” which by that time was teeming with police and rescue personnel who were trying to put out the fire and save the woman inside the car.

“To actually see someone stuck in a burning car, it was worse than a movie,” she said.

Eventually, the fire was doused and the woman, later identified as Christine Cogill, 35, of Marshfield, was pulled from the car and taken to Cape Cod Hospital.  Yarmouth Police also gathered the young girl from Denise’s car and Hyannis Fire transported her to Cape Cod Hospital for evaluation. Both the girl and her mother were later discharged from the hospital and a Yarmouth Police officer called Denise later that night to say the 6-year-old had been released into the custody of other family members. Cogill was charged with operating under the influence of alcohol and child endangerment.

When she finally got home that evening, Denise’s two sons, 13 and 17, instantly knew her trip had not been ordinary when they smelled the scent of burnt oil on her clothes. “It turned out to be a good way to start a discussion about drinking and driving,” she said.

As she looks back on the incident, it replays in her mind as something that happened much faster than it seemed as it was unfolding.

“It was actually really, really scary,” she said. Fortunately for the little girl, Denise was able to rise above her fear and help avert a possible tragedy.