Florida ICU Nicole Horochowski was officially off the clock while enjoying a vacation in New York City, but she still found a way to save someone’s life. She attended a performance of Funny Girl on Broadway starring Lea Michele on Friday night with her twin sister when she noticed something was wrong.
“It was near the end of the play. I noticed that two gentlemen actually stood up. And you notice it because you know it’s the tail end, and you go, ‘Oh, my God. I can’t believe they’re leaving the last 10 minutes,’ ” Horochowski said.
But then she noticed one of the men was being physically supported by the other.
“Two or three rows in front of us, they stop. And the potential patient basically says in full volume, out loud, ‘I don’t feel well.’ And then just collapsed on a person sitting on the end of the row,” she described.
She went from a patron to a provider in a matter of seconds as reality set in, but she didn’t want to disturb the play.
“Lea Michele is up there singing her heart out,” she said. “I think all medical people can understand that you’re out and about, you’re not clocked in, and your first thought is, ‘Oh no I’m not working. But now I’m about to start working.’ So you give it a second.”
She counted to five in her head, allowing for the possibility that the man had either tripped or was drunk.
“Or is this something real?,” Horochowski asked herself. “And it turned out to be something real. So I did get up, and you announce yourself as a nurse, and that is your duty.”
The show continued as Horochowski asked the man a series of questions. He regained his focus after about five minutes of her sitting with him in the dark theater.
Someone called 9-1-1 and the theater staff brought out medical supplies in case they were needed.
Horochowski learned that the man was married during their hushed conversation.
“The man’s husband said they were married for 27 years and he didn’t want to lose the love of his life,” Horochowski said. “I got right in [the patient’s] face and I said, ‘Hey, I’m Nicole. I’m a nurse, what’s your name?’ and he stared right through me.”
The play quickly became an afterthought for the nurse as she rushed to save the man’s life while his husband watched.
“If Lea Michele happened to say, ‘What’s going on back there?’ You know, ‘I’ll chat with her later,’ the nurse said. “This person is priority No. 1 for these next couple of minutes.”
Once the man could stand, his husband escorted him to the lobby where they waited for an ambulance.
She said she hasn’t seen the couple since and isn’t sure how things turned out but she is glad she was able to help.
Horochowski said it was a dream come true to see Lea Michele take on the role of Fanny in Funny Girl.
“You think it’s fake until you see it. This tiny little thing, the stuff that comes out of her mouth. It was unbelievable. So yeah, we loved it. We really, really enjoyed it,” she said – even though she missed the last minutes of the show. The theater offered her swag and free tickets, but she declined.
“I don’t do this for the free merch. I’m sure I’ll see the show again. But I was just glad to do my duty and hang out with my family,” she explained.
The nurse added that family members and loved ones are often the first ones to notice when someone experiences a health emergency. They play a vital role in making sure the person gets help.
“Recognizing that there’s a problem is always the first thing. Everyone knows what normal looks like and they may know what normal is for their family member. When something is not normal, that is when you need to call somebody,” Horochowski urged.
She said people should depend on their loved ones in case of an emergency.
“Lean towards the people that know what’s going on,” she advised. “[Then see] doctors, nurses, medical professionals. If you are unsure, get yourself to the doctor, get yourself to the ER.”