Alumna Joey Egan flourishes in respiratory care work, saves a life

Sep 20, 2018
Courtesy photo
Courtesy photo

Alumna Joey Egan was at a family breakfast in El Dorado, Kansas, when her 20-day-old nephew stopped breathing.

Egan’s sister, Kristen Greene, was holding baby Wilder when she noticed he wasn’t breathing.

“My sister ran over to me, and I turned around and saw that Wilder was holding his breath, he was bearing down and turning blue,” Egan said. “The first thing I thought was, ‘I need to get to an open area were I can better see him and focus on resuscitating him.’”

Egan remained calm and tried to stimulate Wilder to breathe by flicking his feet. When he didn’t respond, she took off his onesie so she could see his chest and began giving him rescue breaths.

“It wasn’t until he started breathing again that I had time to even process what had happened,” Egan said. “Once the ER team took him from me and I knew he was okay, it started to sink in. When I saw our extended family all sitting together in the ER waiting room, his stoic father and grandfather fighting back tears, that’s when it hit me. I was so thankful he was okay and for the support system we had around us.”

Joey Egan graduated from Newman in 2011 with friends Adam Harding and Kirsten Frazier.
Joey Egan (left) celebrates her 2011 graduation with friends Adam Harding and Kirsten Frazier.

Looking back, Egan said it would have been difficult to stay focused on saving Wilder if she hadn’t had her past experience in health care.

“As a health care person, you learn to internalize and focus on the task at hand,” she said. “You can’t let your emotions get in the way — you have to block everything else out and just do what needs to be done.”

Egan has worked in the respiratory care department at Saint Louis Children’s Hospital for five years. She started as a staff therapist and was promoted last year to the respiratory care program lead in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit.

“I find the most rewarding aspects of my job are building relationships, teaching and encouraging new graduates and being able to comfort patients, families and fellow staff members.”

In an article written by Saint Louis Children’s Hospital, Greene also expressed gratitude for her sister’s work in respiratory health. She said, “Never seeing her in the workplace or having to understand what she does for a living, I was amazed by her and her talent. She was Wilder’s angel.”

Egan stands with her sister and two oldest nieces by the children's sign at Saint Louis Children's Hospital.
Joey Egan stands with her sister and two oldest nieces by the children’s sign at Saint Louis Children’s Hospital.

Egan is a 2011 graduate of the Newman University respiratory care program. She remembers being held to a higher standard during her time as a college student at Newman, which is something she is grateful for, she said.

“Newman taught me to work hard for what I want,” Egan said. “Employers see the drive and hard work ethic that Newman instills in its students and these are the people they want in health care management.”

Some of Egan’s most treasured friendships were made at Newman. She remembers having late night study sessions in Dugan Library, inventing goofy mnemonics with her classmates to help memorize the difficult medical terms and study materials.

“There are about six of us that still keep in contact and randomly reach out for advice about work,” she added.

While Wichita will remain one of her loves, Saint Louis will always be Egan’s home, she said.

“Saint Louis Children’s Hospital NICU is ranked No. 9 in the country and it’s my goal to be a part of the team that helps us become No. 1,” she said. “We are an academic hospital partnered with Washington University in Saint Louis and we have unlimited opportunities for growth.”

Egan is currently working on sleep study research with Washington University and plans to return to Newman in the near future to speak alongside a campus recruiter to respiratory, pre-med and nursing students.