DANA POINT — An 18-year-old who would have bled to death Wednesday when she fell and severed her jugular vein was saved by her father's fiancee, who quickly applied pressure to the gaping wound, medical officials said.
Nichole Miller was listed in serious condition at Mission Hospital Regional Medical Center in Mission Viejo after surgery to repair the blood vessel. But she is expected to survive and be released later this week, according to hospital spokeswoman Becky Barney-Villano.
The teen-ager, who lives with her grandparents in Sun Prairie, Wis., where she attends high school, was visiting her father, Wayne Miller, 39, in Dana Point during the holidays.
Miller's fiancee, Suzie Breedlove, 30, said when she heard "a loud noise" in the living room of the Miller home about 5:45 a.m., she ran out of the bedroom to see what was the matter.
She said Nichole, who had been sleeping on the sofa, had gotten up to drink a glass of water. But a chest cold the latter was suffering apparently made her dizzy and she tripped over the coffee table, dropping the water glass and falling on the sharp fragments, which cut her jugular vein.
"Blood was squirting across the room," Breedlove said, adding that Nichole was slumped unconscious over a pile of Christmas presents on the floor.
Breedlove, a laboratory technician at Saddleback Memorial Medical Center in Laguna Hills, said she immediately "took both hands and pushed them against the open wound." She said she used a towel that Nichole's father had grabbed from the bathroom to press against the wound. The couple then called 911.
Breedlove said she and Wayne Miller were frightened that Nichole seemed to have stopped breathing. "We did mouth-to-mouth (resuscitation) a couple times and she gasped for air. She came to and was semiconscious," she said.
The paramedics and the hospital trauma team credited the first aid administered by Breedlove for saving the teen-ager, who is five feet tall and weighs 95 pounds.
"When we got there, (Breedlove) was holding direct pressure on the wound," which was about two inches long and an inch wide, said Skip Hawkins, an Orange County Fire Department paramedic. "We continued the direct pressure and gave her an IV with a full liter of saline solution" to replace the lost blood.
"With a laceration of that magnitude, if pressure had not been applied, the girl would have bled to death," he said.
Nonetheless, Nichole Miller shed about three quarters of a liter of blood, or about one-fifth of her total blood volume, hospital officials said.
Hawkins said that while "usually people are very hysterical" at the sight of blood, Wayne Miller and Breedlove "did all the right things and it paid off. If you can save your child's life, it is the biggest gift of all."