King County employee saves passenger’s life on ferry commute


Jim Gleckler, a Registered Nurse with Public Health

It just takes one person to save a life. And for a gentleman on the evening ferry headed from Seattle to Bainbridge Island on July 18, that person was a quick-thinking King County employee.

It began with the announcement that there was a medical emergency. A passenger was having trouble breathing and ferry crew members had responded. When they realized he needed medical attention, a call was put out for medical professionals who could assist. That’s when Jim Gleckler, a Registered Nurse with Public Health, stepped forward.

“He had stopped breathing and had no pulse when I assessed him, and his pupils were fixed and dilated,” said Jim. “I called for the AED and started CPR, and was soon joined by a doctor who was on her way home.”

An AED is an automated external defibrillator, and an Ambu bag is a mask with a bag and valve used for manual resuscitation.

“She ‘bagged’ him with the Ambu bag while I did compressions. The AED shocked him twice and then his pulse was reestablished,” he said. “I did what any other nurse would have done. I focused on keeping his blood circulating and the AED restored his rhythm.”

Jim relied on his CPR skills and nursing training to evaluate the situation and respond in the right manner. CPR-certified since 1985, Jim has served as a nurse in the King County Correctional Facility in downtown Seattle for over 24 years. Initially attracted by an ad that read “If you are a nurse with a sense of humor, come work at the jail,” he took a tour of the facility on a whim and was immediately impressed. He continues to enjoy the challenges and changing atmosphere of being a nurse in his position.

“We take care of a high needs population in a non-healthcare setting,” he explains. “It requires a broad knowledge base and good assessment skills, as you never know what will happen next.”

“I haven’t had two days that were in the same in almost 25 years.”

While his previous background ranges from farming in Pennsylvania to working as a Certified Nurseryman in Texas, Jim considers nursing to be his true calling.

“A friend had asked me ‘You like taking care of plants, why don’t you consider taking care of people?’ And I have never regretted going into nursing.”

In his lengthy nursing career, Jim has attended to other medical emergencies, many on his regular commute from Bainbridge to the downtown jail. These include a seizure, diabetic emergencies, a car/skateboarder accident and a bike accident, among others. He reminds everyone to be alert in these situations, and unafraid to get involved.

“I have had other emergencies on the ferry before, but this was my first time using CPR when not at work,” he said. “When these situations happen, always ask for the AED.”

“Don’t be afraid to use it, they are very user-friendly, even for lay people. And of course, call 911!”

Jim shared his business card with the family during the ordeal so they could keep him updated on the patient. He is happy to hear that the gentleman is recovering nicely after having open-heart surgery.

“It’s been satisfying to hear the updates from the family,” he said. “In most other situations I haven’t gotten to hear about the outcomes, and one always wonders how things turn out.”

Thanks to Jim and his clearheaded decision, a life was saved and a connection was made that shows the compassion and capability of nurses in public health and what it means to be a King County employee.

This story first appeared in KOMO News as “Quick-thinking ferry passengers, crew members save man’s life.” It did not mention Jim, but thankfully staff recognized him and suggested we speak to him about his experience. If you would like to become CPR certified, please sign up for an upcoming employee class.