How a series of fortunate events saved a Children’s Healthcare worker

A nurse, an officer and the worker’s husband just happened to be in the building one fateful day

Darlene Murray-Rhodes was at her desk last October when she had a heart attack.Murray-Rhodes was lucky Cresta Christensen, Dr. Marcella Cox and Deputy Chief Brandon Gurley of the Brookhaven Policy Department were nearby..Those three and other colleagues began CPR and used the floor's defibrillator to get her heart started again.When Murray-Rhodes returned to work, her co-workers lined the hallway to cheer her on.“I was prepared for a team meeting. Instead, I walked into something I’ll never forget,” she said

In her 16 years working with patients as a nurse in Utah, Cresta Christensen never had to resuscitate someone. After just a few months as a nurse defense auditor, however, she can no longer say that.

October 13, 2021, could have been a dark day for Darlene Murray-Rhodes, but the stars aligned that day to save her life. Christensen was one of those stars.

Murray-Rhodes called out for help as she collapsed at her desk at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta’s Support Center. As Florence Davis, director of patient accounting, called 911, Jamie Osborne ran to get Christensen.

“I heard her say, ‘Where’s your nurse?’ said Christensen, who just happened to be in the office that day. “So, I’m the only nurse on the floor in that department.”

Christensen was told Murray-Rhodes had a seizure, but she was cold and quickly turning pale. Her breathing was agonal and her pulse was thready, Christensen said.

“I asked if anybody knew CPR, and I got zero response,” she said, “so I started doing chest compressions.”

CPR wasn’t working, Christensen said, so she asked someone to get the automated external defibrillator. By this time, a crowd had gathered around Christensen and Murray-Rhodes.

“And it was terrifying,” Christensen said. “thinking her life is solely in my hands. If you’re with a team, you think, OK, if I mess up, they can kind of correct me. They were all watching me, but nobody was doing anything.”

Turned out no one knew how to use the AED, either.

Christensen wasn’t alone for long. Dr. Marcella Cox, who worked downstairs in the Care Clinic, arrived on the scene. The two took turns doing chest compressions and using the difibrillator, but they lost Murray-Rhodes’ pulse. “I couldn’t get enough force (doing compressions),” Christensen said.

That’s when she heard a male voice. “He just said, ‘I’m here, and I can help,” Christensen said..

“He” was Deputy Chief Brandon Gurley of the Brookhaven Police Department, who just happened to be in the building for a conference on the first floor. Gurley had arrived early and decided to turn on his radio to see what was happening — something he said he never does.

When he heard the 911, he asked dispatch to repeat the addressing, realizing the emergency was just a few floors above him. So he quickly made his way to the third floor.

“He knelt by her head, and he was in his uniform, and that’s really all I could tell you,” Christensen said. “I had no idea what his hair color was or anything about him other than I saw that uniform and I just felt so relieved.”

Gurley took over chest compressions, and he and Christensen shocked Murray-Rhodes again with the AED. That was enough to get her heart beating again.

“He really was the hero of it all,” Christensen said of Gurley.

Just a couple of minutes later, EMTs arrived to transport Murray-Rhodes to the hospital. Murray-Rhodes’ husband, Gregory Rhodes, just happened to be with her.

A security officer at the Support Center, Rhodes usually works the night shift. But on October 13, 2021, he traded shifts with a colleague. As a result, he was able to be by his wife’s side as she was carried into an ambulance.

“It was just another little miracle because he was able to tell EMS all the information they need to know about her address and her past medical history and her birthdays and everything,” Christensen said. “it’s just a bunch of small miracles that kind of happened to save her life, I guess.”

“I cannot thank my team enough for their guidance, courage and continuous support,” Murray-Rhodes said. “Their prayers and kindness have been a source of strength and positivity for me throughout my recovery and return to work.”

“It’s heartwarming to know how many people are in my corner,” she said, “They taught me what true service and dedication means. Their refusal to back down when the situation got tough is so inspiring — it will remain with me forever.”

For more content like this, sign up for the Pulse newsletter here.