Musician honors nurses who saved his life in an elevator

NEW ORLEANS - Every time musician Maurice Trosclair picks up his trombone, he thinks of his guardian angels.

Trosclair wouldn’t be alive today if not for those “angels,” a pair of dedicated nurses who didn’t hesitate to help him in his time of need.

When he’s not playing trombone with Delfeayo Marsalis’ Uptown Jazz Orchestra, Trosclair spends his days as a geoscience exploration technician for Upstream Exploration.

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On February 14, 2017, as Trosclair was returning from his afternoon run along Lake Pontchartrain in Metairie, he collapsed in the elevator on the way to his office.

“I suffered what is called sudden cardiac death,” Trosclair said. “Your heart just stops.”

Trosclair was texting his wife, Nancy Trosclair, when he collapsed, opening a gash on his head in the process.

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Sandy Ortego, who happened to be riding the elevator with Trosclair when his heart stopped, ran to get help as soon as the elevator doors opened.

Then the doors closed again, and the elevator made its way to another floor, with Trosclair still lying unconscious on the floor.

“The elevator doors opened up, and there was a nurse, Suzy Howard,” he said. “She kicked off her high heeled shoes and just dove right in and started performing CPR on me.”

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Howard was soon joined by a second nurse, Tricha Arabie, who also just happened to be waiting for the elevator Trosclair just happened to be on when his heart stopped.

Ortego soon arrived with a portable defibrillator from a health club in the building, and the two nurses applied three shocks to Trosclair’s chest as Ortego called Nancy Trosclair on Maurice’s phone so she could listen in and get status updates.

Together with the help of Kimaline Duplessis, Roy Fontenelle, and Kaitlyn Ries, who all helped with the defibrillator, Trosclair survived long enough to make it to East Jefferson Hospital, where doctors kept him in a medically induced coma for four days until he was ready to wake up and go home.

After being too weak to pick up his trombone for a month, Trosclair was able to bounce back and perform at French Quarter Fest and then at Jazz Fest.

The trombone he uses today, which was made especially for him, is adorned with guardian angel wings and an image of a heart, a constant reminder of his close call.

“These amazing individuals stepped in and saved my life,” Trosclair said. “If there’s anything I’ve learned from this, it’s that you really need to tell the people you love that are important to you how much they mean to you. Do that today, because tomorrow is not guaranteed.”