Dec. 16, 2021 — CSU Channel Islands (CSUCI) Nursing alumnus Claire Gillette had just finished a 12-hour shift in the emergency room at Los Robles Regional Medical Center in Thousand Oaks, and she was exhausted. Did she have enough energy for a yoga class before going home? 

 

“I work night shift and I never take that class after a shift because I’m tired, and it’s hot yoga with weights,” Gillette said. “But there was a spot open in the class and I thought ‘I’m feeling into the weights.’”  

 

Had Gillette not joined the class on that particular day, and had she not been prepared with nursing skills she learned at CSUCI, the husband and two sons of Erika Cole, 44, would be spending the holidays without her. 

 

“Claire is the only reason I’m alive today,” Cole said.  

 

Gillette grew up in Camarillo, and after graduating from Camarillo High School in 2013, she enrolled in CSUCI’s Nursing program, where she earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) in 2018.  

 

“I vividly remember Claire during her journey as a student nurse,” said CSUCI faculty member Mila Tabije-Ebuen, DNP, MSN, RN. “She was hardworking, diligent, loves to learn, and tenacious. She knew what she wanted to become, and I still remember that day she asked for my thoughts and assistance to become an ER nurse. I saw myself in her and I made sure the opportunity was given to her.”  

 

With Tabije-Ebuen’s help, Gillette spent her entire last semester as a student nurse in the Los Robles Emergency Department, and she loved it. She took her state boards and was hired. 

 

“We love having Claire on our team and to see her growth as an RN,” said Los Robles Director of Emergency Services Erica Rosa, MSN, RN. “She is so hardworking and a great team player. She loves the Emergency Department and goes out of her way to help her patients.” 

 

“You don’t realize how valuable your nursing education is until you’re actually nursing,” Gillette said. “The knowledge base is so broad. You learn it in class, but once you’re actually doing it in a clinical setting, the nursing knowledge you have is just there, and it comes out so naturally.” 

 

It was that knowledge and her experience in the ER that locked into place in yoga class on Oct. 8, 2021, when, toward the end of class, Gillette saw the instructor checking on someone in the front row of class and heard stirrings of “Is she O.K.?” and “Erika!” 

 

Gillette rushed to the front of the class where she saw a woman curled up on her yoga mat. Her skin was blue. And she had no pulse. 

 

“The music’s going, it’s hot and humid and I’m screaming ‘Turn off the music! Cool off the room! Get me an AED! Call 911!” Gillette said.  

 

Somebody ran to get an Automatic External Defibrillator (AED) as Gillette pumped the woman’s chest, doing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Twice, the woman’s heart rhythm flatlined and twice, Gillette had to shock her with the AED. 

 

“I was getting tired doing CPR, but her friend was saying ‘She has two kids!’ and I thought, ‘I’m going to save her if it kills me,’” Gillette said. 

 

Gillette was relieved when firefighters and paramedics arrived to transport the woman, who she would later learn was named Erika Cole, to Los Robles Hospital. 

 

 “I knew I was on the yoga floor one minute and the next thing I remember is waking up in the cath (catheter) lab,” Cole said. “I was intubated. I didn’t remember anything.” 

 

Cole said she was diagnosed with Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, a rare but temporary condition in which the heart muscle becomes stunned or weakened, usually because of emotional or physical stress. After the medical team stabilized Cole, Cole insisted on meeting the nurse who had saved her life. Gillette was working that night, so Gillette paid a visit to Cole’s hospital room. 

 

“Claire walked in and said, ‘I’m pretty sure I broke all your ribs, but I was put in that room to save your life,’” Cole said. “I started crying. My husband and kids will have me around. I’ll get to live to see my grandchildren.” 

 

“We were holding hands and she was telling me she loves me,” Gillette said. “We’re best friends now. We talk every day.” 

 

Gillette has become a part of Cole’s family, which includes Cole’s husband, Trevor, and her two sons, Tyler, 15, and Caleb, 10. Gillette is a regular at the Cole dinner table. Cole celebrated Gillette’s 27th birthday on Dec. 13 with a trip to a favorite watering hole with a group of friends dressed in ugly Christmas sweaters.  

 

Always a nurse, Gillette is sharing the story along with Cole in hopes of encouraging everyone to learn CPR.  

 

On Dec. 11, Gillette and Cole got matching tattoos on the inside of their forearms with the Roman numerals to represent Oct. 8, 2021 and the infinity symbol, as they know they will be in each other’s lives from now on. 

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