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The Good Samaritan
A neurosurgery nurse often finds herself at the scene of major traffic accidents

Sue Schnupp: Our Lady of the Highway

Early one morning last June, en route to Hopkins Hospital, Sue Schnupp sat in I-95 traffic. Soon, smoke began to fill the road to her right. Two state police officers jumped out of their cars. Then she saw it: a small, mangled car.

Schnupp pulled over and bolted from her car. “Can I help?” she called to the police. “I’m a neurosurgery nurse practitioner at Hopkins with 12 years’ ER experience.” They motioned for her to come ahead. There were still no emergency medical personnel on the scene.

Schnupp quickly ascertained that the driver of the car had died on impact. Another man was trapped inside a locked SUV. Police pried open the back and lifted Schnupp through. She crawled in behind the victim, noting lacerations to his head and hands. But he was conscious. “I told him I’d stay with him till he was stable and more help came.” When the helicopter arrived, police pulled her out of the car. An hour after she’d pulled over, she was on her way to work. She later learned that the man she helped survived.

It was hardly the first time Schupp had witnessed a serious accident and pulled over to help. Holidays have proved particularly fateful. Once, on Thanksgiving, she helped accident victims. Then there was that Christmas Day a few years ago.

Schnupp was driving to Pittsburgh to visit family. Her car was loaded with gifts, and she was dressed in her finest. Schnupp’s former husband, kids and dogs were in another car. “Suddenly I saw an 18-wheeler on the opposite side of the road with a car hooked onto it.” She got off at the next exit, turned around and rushed to help.

It was a good thing: Schnupp was the only one who’d seen the accident. Two of the victims were not seriously injured, but the driver of the car, a young female doctor, was in bad shape. She had a closed-head injury and dilated pupils. Schnupp immediately called 911.

Stopping to help may come naturally, but it’s never easy. She learned the next day that the young doctor died nine hours later. It’s something she still can’t forget.

A recent excursion found Schnupp near White Marsh on the scene of another accident (her fifth, but who’s counting?). A convertible, driven by a teenager, had flipped over. In high heels, Schnupp climbed a wooded hill. She stayed with the victims until ambulances arrived. Soon after, she started scratching her arm. The itching escalated into a case of poison ivy so severe she landed in the hospital.

“She’s an angel sent from God to aid those in trouble,” says colleague Georgia Simpson, who carpools with Schnupp every day. But Schnupp brushes it off. Other nurses, doctors and EMTs, she points out, join her at these scenes. Somehow, however, she is usually the first one there and, with 37 years of nursing experience, the most senior. “If I were in an accident,” she says, “I’d want someone with training to be there for me.”

Judy Minkove



Johns Hopkins Medicine

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