Megan Bellagamba began working in the NICU at Children's National in July 2006. A valued member of the nursing team, Megan says she enjoys working with patient families and seeing the sickest babies progress and make miraculous strides. She was inspired to become a nurse after her twin nieces were born prematurely and she saw the great care they received during their early days in the NICU.
What sets Megan and our Magnet nursing team at Children's National apart is their utmost dedication to caring for patients and families and the way they go above and beyond every day to care for those around them, even for those outside the walls of Children's National.
In an unexpected sequence of events, Megan took live-saving steps to save someone whom she had never met, in an emergency situation. In an instant Megan was called upon to use her medical training and expertise to assist Pam Feil, a fellow patron at a restaurant in Virginia. Ms. Feil writes:
On October 30th, I and my husband Dan, were having dinner at a restaurant called "The Blue Iguana" in Fair Lakes Mall. We were with another couple whom we have known for 28 years because our sons went to pre-school together. We had shared appetizers and then the main courses came. I ordered a pork chop with tamarind sauce because I do love "the other white meat" and I had never had tamarind sauce before. The waiter, who knew us, recommended it. I remember thinking that the pork chop was quite thick/dense and I was glad I had a sharp knife. (When I make a pork tenderloin (and for our Thanksgiving turkey), I always use an electric knife and cut thin slices.) I had taken a few bites, cutting small pieces. On my next bite, I realized the piece of pork was stuck in my throat. I tried to cough a few times and realized it wasn't moving. Without thinking, I got up from the table and headed towards the bathroom. My friend asked me if I was alright and I shook my head "No."
The next thing I remember was my husband saying (to a waitress whom I don't remember seeing), "Get someone who knows the Heimlich maneuver." And then I heard someone saying in a calm and reassuring manner, "I am a nurse. Can I help you?" I believe she saw/heard what was going on even before the waitress went to get any form of help. She got behind me and used "the Heimlich." I was still choking and was beginning to panic and I felt as though I couldn't see because I was so scared or in shock or maybe, unbeknownst to me, I was closing my eyes. She asked me if she should do it again and I nodded, "Yes." As she did so, I could hear an awful gurgling sound in my throat but I was still choking and was becoming even more scared. I was really afraid I was going to suffocate.
I have been through other traumas in my life and never panicked. My husband and daughter were in a terrible car accident 12 years ago. The ER initially gave him an hour to live because of multiple breaks, fractures, and internal injuries. Our daughter's knees were permanently damaged. Our son had open heart surgery when he was 16. My elderly mother suffered a number of fractures and a broken arm from falls. No matter what time of the day or night, I was able to stay calm. But such was not the case this time. I was very scared.
Her husband had gotten up to help her/be with her and he offered to do it a third time. She said to wait because I was breathing, and then asked me to see if I could cough. I coughed a few times and then lo and behold, I felt the piece of meat dislodge and go down my esophagus. I stood there stunned and then hugged her and thanked her and she asked if I needed to sit or if I could walk back to the table. I was able to go back to our table unassisted.
It was then that I realized, she had been sitting at the booth right next to our table. After, I had collected myself, I went over and hugged her and thanked her and she assured me that I was alright and was very unassuming about the whole thing. Dan and I just sat in disbelief. How do you properly thank someone for saving your life? There really are no words that can encompass what that means. We were trying to absorb what had happened. Dan went to the manager and told him that we wanted to contribute to the bill and the manager informed us that they refused to accept anything.
I sat through the rest of our meal without eating anything trying to come to grips with what had happened. As Megan and the rest of her family/friends got ready to leave, I knew I could not let her leave without knowing the name of the woman who saved my life. So I went back to Megan and asked her name and where she worked. She told me. It made me so happy to know that she works in a NICU and I explained to her that I volunteer at Fairfax Hospital every Thursday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. giving newborn babies their first bath.
I am sitting here e-mailing this to you still trying to take this all in. As I told you on the phone, our 27-year-old daughter got married on Jan 2nd and our 30-year-old son got married on July 4th. I will now be able to see them and their families grow.
.With warmest regards and thanks for all you nurses do for all the babies, and mommies and daddies,
At Children's National, we continue to be proud of the work our nurses do every day, and the impact they make at Children's National and in the community. Our team would like to give a special thank you to Ms. Feil for recognizing Megan, and sharing her story.