Tessa Riehman-Bryan graduated from nursing school in May and began her first job as a registered nurse at UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital in July. Less than 24 hours after starting her job, her nursing skills and training kicked in while she was off-the-clock.
Riehman-Bryan and her boyfriend came upon the scene of a car accident, later confirmed as a shooting, during their drive home on Interstate 70 that summer night. They immediately pulled over.
“It was just so instinctual,” Riehman-Bryan said. “It was one of those things in life that I was just so sure about, that I have to stop and see what was going on.”
She saw a man passed out at the wheel of his car and began performing compressions on the man until she was relieved by a police officer.
Although the man didn’t survive, he left a lasting impression on Riehman-Bryan. She thinks about the whole situation every day.
“I think when traumatic things happen like that, we just kind of reprioritize our lives,” said Riehman-Bryan.
For Riehman-Bryan, her healing journey feels like an “oscillating wave.”
“One minute I feel completely fine and the next, I just feel heavy,” she said.
Riehman-Bryan met the deceased man’s fiancé, which helped in her healing journey. She attended the man’s funeral, where she was greeted by grateful family members who were thankful that someone was with him.
The biggest takeaway Riehman-Bryan has after the tragedy is to always value humanity.
“We can value other people’s lives without knowing them,” Riehman-Bryan said. “And that’s health care in general. People walk in, and we have no idea who they are or what their story is, and we form such a bond and connection with them.”