ORLANDO, Fla. – Two Orlando nurses are being hailed heroes after they ran to save the life of a stranger when they saw him floating face down off the coast of Cape Canaveral.
After three months of recovering from the accident, Ralph Hopkins was finally meeting two of his lifesavers.
“I had been anticipating this day for quite some time and I’ve had bouts of tearfulness when I think about it,” Hopkins said.
On Oct. 17, Stephanie Chase, a pediatric nurse at Nemours Children’s Hospital, was with her best friend and fellow NCH nurse enjoying their day off when they jumped into action.
Both women added it was difficult to go back to the beach after that terrifying experience.
“Just to see his face with the life back in it and to see his eyes with life in them is something we really need to replace the memory of the emotion of that day,” Rachel Molander said.
Hopkins, who enjoys beach days with his wife, said he had gone out on the water with his boogie board that morning when a wave pulled him down causing him to hit his head and right arm on a sandbar.
“I recall standing up, but I couldn’t get my legs, I kept falling back into the water, and I was trying to keep my head above water to grab air, but I didn’t seem to know what was up and which way was down. And I just started taking in all of this water and my last recollection was taking a deep breath of seawater and I blacked out,” he said.
While Hopkins was floating face down in the water, he said another woman by the name of Gabriella, encountered his body. She tried to pull him of the water. When the two friends were about to leave the beach, they noticed his body as well.
“We didn’t even think about it we just got up and ran. We struggled for a while to try to get him out of the surf,” Chase recalled.
The nurses, who’ve been with Nemours Children’s hospital for less than six years said they never go to Cape Canaveral and that day, they kept delaying their departure back home.
“We kept saying ‘five more minutes, five more minutes,’ and then we finally stood up just to stretch and leave, and we saw a man floating face down in the water,” Molander said. “We pulled him out. We didn’t know what we were going to find when we turned him over. We turned him over it was very clear he was gone.”
“He had no pulse,” Chase said.
The two immediately began compressions.
When asked if the two nurses gave him a second chance at life, Hopkins didn’t hesitate to say he’s alive because of them.
“They did. They gave me a second chance at life,” Ralph said. “I’ve thought a lot about that over the past 3 months and it changes you; it changes your perspective on a lot of different things. And I only hope that I can, in some way pay it forward. It really was not luck. It really was the selflessness, the determination, the resolve of these two fine nurses that were responsible for saving my life.”