A fire broke out in a home in Richland Parish, Louisiana, around 6 p.m. Nov. 23. The homeowner, who was paralyzed, would have been trapped in her room and died had it not been for the heroic efforts of her nurse.
Gwendolyn Theus, 64, who had worked in nutrition services at Delhi Hospital before becoming a home nurse, was present and alerted her patient to the fire.
According to a report from the Louisiana Office of State Fire Marshal, Theus did everything within her power to get the homeowner out on her wheeled bed but was unable to get her through the doorway.
After those failed attempts, Theus tried to get the 71-year-old patient out through the window, with the help of neighbors who were on site.
By the time first responders arrived and extracted them both from the home, the nurse had already succumbed to smoke inhalation and was unable to be revived.
Her final efforts were not in vain, though, as her patient responded to CPR and was taken to a burn unit in Mississippi, where she is expected to make a full recovery.
“Ms. Theus’ valiant efforts to put her patient’s life before her own are both admirable and heartbreaking,” state Fire Marshal H. “Butch” Browning said in a statement.
“Our prayers are with her loved ones and with the surviving victim for her recovery and loss of her dedicated nurse and friend.”
Theus was a mother of six and the wife of the Rev. Billy Theus of Turkey Creek Baptist Church. According to her obituary, she was known for “sharing the message of hope and love with everyone she knew.”
“Gwen was sensitive, loving, and dedicated woman of God,” the obituary said. “She gave her life to save another on the evening of November 23rd in a house fire while sitting with an elderly, paralyzed patient.”
The cause of the fire is not yet known.
“Due to the extensive damage, deputies have been unable to access the scene in order to begin efforts to determine an area of origin or cause,” the state fire marshal’s report said.
The report said there were working smoke alarms in the home and pointed readers to Operation Save-a-Life, a group that teams up with fire departments to provide and install smoke alarms for needy families.
Theus will be dearly missed by her family, but she died trying to save someone’s life, and that will not soon be forgotten.
She is a hero.
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