Local nurse honored for saving life of National Guardsman after severe wreck

A Providence-Swedish nurse was hailed as a hero Thursday morning for her efforts to save a member of the Washington National Guard.

Registered Nurse Megan Williams sprung into action over the summer along Interstate 90 to save two guardsmen who were involved in a severe collision in a military vehicle. A special ceremony was held where state National Guard members saluted her for saving 27-year-old Specialist Shaun Peterson.

Williams says she was a traveling nurse before she ended her nomadic ways with a job at Providence-Swedish Medical Center. After six months on the job, she was instrumental in saving a life, which is not uncommon for nurses, but the effort happened well outside the walls of the hospital, according to Williams and the National Guard.

“I had a couple of contracts fall through in different states and I was kind of scrambling. I had never been to Seattle before I came here and I ended up just falling in love with it,” said Williams.

The chief nursing officer for the hospital, Debbie Gist, started the early morning ceremony.

“We’re here to honor one of our own, Megan Williams,” said Gist.

“I was just the right person at the right time with a certain skill set,” William said, describing the incident from her perspective.

Williams was headed east on Interstate 90 to go hike the Enchantments on July 14 as she got to know our region during the early months of her tenure at the hospital.

But before she got to her trails, she found a military vehicle crashed into an overpass on the side of I-90 near Easton between Snoqualmie and Cle Elum.

According to a news release from Providence-Swedish, Williams approached and realized the military vehicle had overturned into the side of a bridge. While slowing down, she saw the driver of the vehicle get out and run to the passenger side. Seeing that, Williams realized someone might be unconscious and hurt, and that they could be trapped in the truck and needed help.

She pulled over to assist however she could.

She had previously done trauma procedures, so she stopped, crawled through the smashed vehicle, treated the driver, and used a seatbelt as a tourniquet on Peterson.

“I’m happy to hear that he’s going to make a full recovery. That was definitely not the initial prognosis on that day,” said Williams.

From the side of the highway, she even convinced 911 dispatchers to send an airlift for Peterson — an airlift that very likely saved his life.

It’s why the National Guard was out early Thursday morning to honor Williams for her service, and put her on the phone with the specialist.

“It was an amazing full circle moment to be able to speak to him,” said Williams.

During the phone call, she knew that the specialist was able to talk and communicate and that he would make a full recovery.

Officials with Providence-Swedish also said that Williams has spent most of her career as an operating room nurse for trauma patients. She is no stranger to remaining calm in the face of critical or gruesome injuries. Responding on her own to the I-90 crash wasn’t the first incident outside of work where she had to jump in and help. The hospital said Williams had worked in North Carolina and happened to be at a mall in Charlotte during a shooting and treated gunshot wounds onsite.

On Monday, she will join all other operating staff members as a full-time employee. A nomad no more, her roadside rescue has resulted in a life saved and a new work life for her, for which she is grateful. She also says what she did is something anyone from the hospital would have probably done if they happened upon a severe crash.

“It reaffirms the work that you do, (that) stopping was the right thing to do, and helping him was the right thing to do,” said Williams.

With all of that in her experience, she was prepared for the scene of the crash, keeping focus as she assessed the passenger for his injuries, and talked to incoming emergency responders for around two hours. She was able to crawl into the vehicle and assess that he would need helicopter transport to ensure he reached care in time to survive.

“I’ve seen a lot of chaos, so working in a scenario like this doesn’t bother me so much anymore,” said Williams. “If I was in that same situation, or it was my brother or friend, I hope the right person with the right skill set would see the accident and do the same thing.”