Sarah Harper, Wellstar Cobb Hospital

Nurses will do anything for their patients, according to Sarah Harper, an emergency department nurse at Wellstar Cobb Hospital in Austell.

“So many of us pay for our patient’s Ubers to get home, pay for their dinners, go to an ATM and get out 20 bucks to give to them because they don’t have anything. And that’s what we do all the time,” the veteran nurse of seven years said.

In Harper’s case, she said she almost got arrested trying to help one of her patients.

That’s just one reason she was presented with an AJC Nurse Excellence Award on Tuesday afternoon, after being nominated last fall. More than 800 nurses were nominated, with 10 receiving nursing awards.

An infant, 45 days old, was brought into the emergency room with a hair tourniquet on the tip of one finger. The baby had gotten mom’s hair twisted so tight it was cutting off the circulation in his tiny finger.

“I saw that the tip of the baby’s finger with purple at this point,” Harper said.

She called for the doctor, who asked for Nair, a hair-removal product sold over the counter in pharmacies. The lotion is usually available in the hospital, but this time, there was none. Harper volunteered to rush out and buy some.

It was midnight, and she drove to a nearby Walmart that was closed, then a Walgreens and several gas stations, also all closed. She went to another Walmart and saw that, while it too was closed, workers were inside stocking shelves. Harper banged on the door and called the store. No answer.

Finally, when an employee opened the door to leave, Harper rushed in, explaining the situation to several people. They did not want her in the store, but she ran to get the product anyway. An employee tried to stop her and threatened to call the police. Again, Harper tried to explain the situation.

“If this was your baby, wouldn’t you want a nurse to come and get the Nair so he wouldn’t lose his finger?” she pleaded.

With that, Harper was able to check out, then drove back to the hospital with the Nair. The doctor got the hair untangled from the finger, and the baby went home that night.

“Thanks to Sarah’s quick thinking and ingenuity to solve the problem at hand, the baby will grow up with a full set of fingers and do wonderful things,” said Mae Banaag, Harper’s charge nurse, who nominated her for an Atlanta Journal-Constitution Celebrating Nurses Award.

Harper said she never thought twice about helping her patient this way. “We do that all the time, all of us,” she said. “The only thing with this one is I almost got arrested in the process. Now, that’s never happened before.”

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Read more about the nurses honored at this year’s ceremony:

Shannan Browning, Piedmont Healthcare

Lauren DePietro, Wellstar Kennestone Hospital

Rose Horton, Emory Healthcare

Damar Lewis, Northside Hospital Duluth

Gina Papa, Clarkston Community Health Center

Deepa Patel, Wellstar Shared Services

Andrew Perea, Kaiser Permanente

Cherish Ramirez, Piedmont Healthcare

Julie Singleton, Northeast Georgia Health System

Denise Ray, Piedmont Healthcare: Nurse Leader Award


Age: 37

Current job: Emergency room nurse at Wellstar Cobb Hospital in Austell

Years of experience: 7

Educational background in nursing: Associate’s degree in nursing, West Georgia Technical College. She always wanted to be a nurse and went back to school to finish her degree after being a stay-at-home mom.

Family info: Grew up in Paulding County, where she still lives with her three children. “I love helping people. I love interacting with my community. This is my community I’m helping. I take pride in that,” she said.