Saturday, August 10, 2002

Longtime volunteer a lifesaver in many capacities

Med student helps shelter

By Janet C. Wetzel
Enquirer contributor

        Hope O'Brien is just beginning her second year in medical school, but she's already experienced the thrill of saving a life.

        She was doing volunteer work at Bethany House Services in Fairmount in June when she heard a scream from the third floor.

[photo] Hope O'Brien has a job with a small stipend at Bethany House.
(Michael E. Keating photo)
        “Oh my God, my baby's not breathing!” yelled a young mother as she ran down the stairs, clutching the 18-month-old. Mrs. O'Brien, 27, who was serving dinner, turned around to see the mother holding out the child, “who was like a lifeless doll.”

        The child was not breathing.

        After determining that the baby's airway was not obstructed, Mrs. O'Brien began cardiopulmonary resuscitation. The toddler gasped, began labored breathing and then normal crying and breathing. When paramedics arrived, the child was standing on her own. Doctors determined she had suffered a seizure from having a high fever.

        “It makes me feel wonderful that I was able to save that child,” said the Woodlawn resident. “People told me how calm I was, how I seemed to know exactly what I was doing. I was scared to death.” Debbie McGarry, volunteer coordinator for Bethany House, which provides housing assistance and education for women and children, said Mrs. O'Brien did everything just right.

        “Everyone that was here that night feels sure that Hope saved that little girl's life,” Ms. McGarry said. Mrs. O'Brien and her husband, Thomas, a second-year resident doctor at University of Cincinnati Medical Center, moved to Cincinnati from Rochester, N.Y., a year ago. She attends the University of Cincinnati School of Medicine and hopes to specialize in neurology.

        Now she's completing a three-month internship at Bethany House through the Urban Health Project for a 35- 40-hour work week. “These agencies need help,” she said. “And since I haven't had much experience working with the urban population, and I want to really make an impact in that population, I decided to work here to interact and learn from the people who in the future will be my patients.” When her paid workday ends, she just shifts gears, goes into volunteer mode, and keeps right on working.

        Mrs. O'Brien is also president of the Christian Medical Association, through the UC School of Medicine. “We all need to help others,” Mrs. O'Brien said.


        Do you know a Hometown Hero? E-mail Janet Wetzel at or fax to 513-755-4150.


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