Laura Kelley and State Trooper Frederick J. Bohnenberger on stage holding the Lifesaving Awards.
Alumni

‘The Man Was Blue’: MCPHS Nursing Alum Performs CPR, Saves Man Who Collapsed on Bus

Nurse practitioner and MCPHS alum Laura Kelley and State Trooper Frederick J. Bohnenberger earned the Lifesaving Award for their quick action during a cardiac emergency.

Laura Kelley and State Trooper Frederick J. Bohnenberger on stage holding the Lifesaving Awards.
Nurse practitioner and MCPHS alum Laura Kelley and State Trooper Frederick J. Bohnenberger earned the Lifesaving Award for their quick action during a cardiac emergency.

Laura Kelley’s quick action during a cardiac emergency earned her the Lifesaving Award from the Massachusetts State Police.

A Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (MCPHS) graduate is credited with taking lifesaving action after a man suffered a heart attack on a Steamship Authority shuttle bus at the Woods Hole terminal on Cape Cod. She kept him alive until paramedics arrived and were able to take him to the hospital.

Due to her swift response, Laura Kelley, MSN '19, was honored by the Massachusetts State Police on June 5 at the police headquarters in Framingham, where she received the Lifesaving Award.

Kelley said she was just doing her job. "I noticed the man was blue. He had no pulse." She acted on instinct, leveraging her experience as nurse practitioner at Martha's Vineyard Hospital and Vineyard Medical Care.

Laura Kelley holds her Massachusetts State Police Lifesaving Award.

On that fateful Friday in June 2023, Kelley was commuting back home, lost in her thoughts with her headphones on, when she noticed a commotion. "I heard this lady saying she thought a man was having a seizure," she recounted. Quickly assessing the situation, Kelley realized it was much more severe: the man, in his sixties, was in cardiac arrest.

"The bus was packed, but suddenly it was just me, this lady, and some older gentleman while everyone else ran away," Kelley said. The bus driver, frozen in shock, could offer no assistance. Kelley, who had been recertified in CPR a week before the incident, took charge, directing the older man to find a state trooper, a frequent presence at the ferry terminal. Meanwhile, the woman next to the patient, despite having no medical experience, followed Kelley's instructions and helped with chest compressions.

When the state trooper arrived, equipped with a first-aid kit, he and Kelley continued CPR. They managed to restore the man's pulse, though he remained unconscious. "When EMS arrived, the patient was breathing on his own," Kelley said.

However, she had no further news of his condition until nearly a year later when she received a letter from the state police informing her of the award and confirming that the man had survived and was doing well.

Kelley's 17-year career in healthcare has prepared her for high-pressure situations, but she admitted this experience was different. "In the ER, you always have help and equipment. This time, I was alone with no equipment, just my training," she said.

Laura Kelley and State Trooper Frederick J. Bohnenberger hold the Lifesaving Award.

Scenarios like this are why Kelley encourages other people to learn basic lifesaving skills since you never know when you may need to use them.

"Everyone should learn CPR—adults, kids, grandparents, babysitters, friends, coaches, etc. You don't have to be a healthcare professional to save a life," she said.

Saving the man on the bus was not Kelley's first time coming to the rescue outside the hospital. After finishing nursing school many years ago, she performed the Heimlich maneuver on a woman choking on shrimp during a bachelorette party dinner at a restaurant in Martha's Vineyard.

"I am grateful for being at the right place at the right time—both times," Kelley said.