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A Kentucky Nursing Student Saved a Man’s Life While Working a Shift at Wendy’s

Charmaine Robinson, MSN-Ed, BSN, RN
Updated December 8, 2023
Edited by
    Learn about the heroic story of an aspiring nurse who performed CPR while on duty at a Wendy’s restaurant.
    Wendy's restaurant sign on buildingCredit: Corbis via Getty Images
    • A Wendy’s employee found herself serving the community in more than one way during a work shift.
    • In the U.S., most people who suffer cardiac arrests outside of the hospital setting do not survive.
    • Bystander CPR can triple the chances of a person surviving an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest.

    On October 26, Alexandria “Alex” Cowherd was working the register at a Wendy’s restaurant in Lexington, Kentucky, when her coworker pointed her toward a man who was lying on the ground in the parking lot unresponsive due to an overdose, according to reports in USA Today and Spectrum News.

    It turns out the man had at least a modicum of luck on his side that day. Cowherd is a certified nursing assistant (CNA) and nursing student at nearby Bluegrass Community and Technical College (BCTC). When she stepped in to help, it may have determined the difference between life and death.

    Locked in the throes of a drug overdose, the man was turning purple as Cowherd approached. A woman was already there, trying to save his life with CPR. But Cowherd, knowing her training, chose to intervene.

    “She wasn’t doing her compressions for long enough,” Cowherd said in a statement. “She’d do it a few times and then she’d try to do mouth-to-mouth. After a few minutes of that, I was just like ‘Here, I’ll do it’…It was scary. I was scared because it wasn’t like how you see it in the movies and stuff.”

    Due to Cowherd’s prompt actions, the man began breathing again. While his condition is currently unknown to the public, first responders told Cowherd that her efforts had made a difference.

    “We take great pride in providing high-quality teaching for our students to enter the workforce well prepared,” said BCTC Acting President and CEO Greg Feeney, Ph.D., in a statement. “Congratulations to Alex and to our Nursing programs for the great work they are doing.”

    Cowherd learned CPR in a high school nurse aide course and graduated as a certified nursing assistant. After having a baby during the COVID-19 pandemic, she missed out on the hours needed to maintain her certificate. She returned to school to become recertified and recently finished a second nurse aide program at Bluegrass Community and Technical College (BCTC) in Lexington.

    Quick Thinking: When Nursing Students Save the Day

    Cowherd is one of many CNAs, nursing students, and others who have performed CPR in public settings and saved lives.

    Last year, an Oklahoma CNA student saved a man’s life at a local park. She rushed over to find him not breathing and several people trying to help him. She performed CPR until the paramedics arrived. Similarly, a Utah nurse saved a man’s life who became unresponsive at a baseball park back in January. She heard someone yell, “Call 911,” and quickly sprang into action to perform CPR.

    In some inspiring stories, rescuers had just freshened up their CPR knowledge and skills.

    In April, a Connecticut nursing student had just submitted a school paper on the importance of CPR training for the general public just 12 hours before finding herself performing CPR on a man in an airport and saving his life. Last year, two bystanders saved a man’s life who had collapsed at a Detroit park. One stated that he took annual CPR courses and had taken a refresher course just a few weeks before the incident.

    While CPR rescuers may be considered nurse heroes or everyday heroes by many, Cowherd said she doesn’t feel like a hero.

    “It’s weird for people to call me a hero,” she said. “I just did what I felt was the right thing to do. And I feel like everybody should know how to do CPR because you never know when it will be necessary.”