Inspiring Nurse Knows the True Meaning of Helping Others

By Nikki Denton

Nurses are known for their compassion and willingness to help others. But one act of kindness almost halted dreams and aspirations for a local nursing student from realizing her goal of becoming a nurse at Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC.

In February, nursing student Cami Abernethy was traveling with a group of Waynesburg University nursing program colleagues when they spotted an SUV flipped onto its side on a busy stretch of I-79. Ms. Abernethy, the other eight students and an instructor stopped to help.  As they were assessing the driver, after having pulled him out of his car, someone shouted a warning about an approaching  truck.

Cami Abernethy
Ms. Abernethy says the lights of a tractor trailer truck were coming right at them. “The truck was not slowing down, and I knew we’d be killed if we didn’t move,” she recalls. 

In a quick move to save their lives, Ms. Abernethy and three other students dove over the left lane barrier, not realizing they had been standing on an overpass. She and her fellow students fell about 50 feet onto the cold, muddy briar on the embankment of the road below.

After the jump, the classmates who remained on the overpass began first aid emergency treatment of Abernethy and her colleagues before they were transported to local hospitals. In the fall, Ms. Abernethy sustained multiple vertebrae fractures, including a blow-out fracture, and underwent surgery to have a rod inserted into her back.

Because of the accident and missing three months of school as a result, Ms. Abernethy had to postpone graduation. But after months of rehab, she was determined to graduate. She completed her course work at home, graduated and passed her boards. She credits her faith for getting her through this tough time

“Faith has played a huge role in my recovery. It was an act of God that we all lived through the fall, and that made me realize that it wasn’t my time to go,” Abernethy says.

Ms. Abernethy, whose mother Denise Abernethy is a unit director in the Emergency Department at UPMC Shadyside, had fallen in love with the Neonatal IntensiveCare Unit (NICU) after an obstetrics internship, and shadowing a NICU nurse. She says she always knew she wanted to work at Magee.

She had applied for a nurse position before the accident, and a week after the accident was called in for an interview. “When I was well enough, I drove in for a quick interview even though I knew I wouldn’t be able to accept the position if I was lucky enough to get it,” Ms. Abernethy explains. But only seven months after her world fell apart, she was fortunate enough to get her dream job at Magee.

“Everyone experiences downfalls and hurdles in life, some bigger than others, but if you stay positive and realize that bad things come to an end, you can overcome anything,” she says.

Ms. Abernethy says if she had to relive that day, she’d still stop to help. “If I had been the one trapped in a disabled vehicle on a highway, I would want someone to lend a hand to me, too.”