Indiana school AEDs: Staff use AED to save stricken principal

Lowell Elementary School in Warren Township, Indiana, got automated external defibrillators (AEDs) five years ago. Just having the devices available gives staff and students a sense of security. Last week one of the AEDs did much more: It saved the life of Principal Susan Howard.

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AED unit at Lowell Elementary School

Howard, 58, was in a staff meeting when she collapsed with sudden cardiac arrest. The staff’s CPR and AED training kicked in immediately. When they discovered Howard had no pulse, one staff member called 911, while two others grabbed an AED.

The device administered one shock. When that failed to revive Howard, the AED gave a second shock, which restored Howard’s heartbeat. An ambulance arrived and transported the principal to the hospital. Doctors said she had experienced ventricular fibrillation — rapid, weak heartbeat that fails to pump blood to the brain.

“Her cardiologist and the paramedics said if not for the defibrillator and the training of the staff, she would have lost her life,” Linda Wise, executive secretary at Warren Township Schools’ central office, told

CPR/AED training is an ongoing part of the school district’s AED program, according to Linda Darger, energy education and school security manager for Warren Township. She said that some of the staff involved in the rescue had taken AED training just one month before the incident.

“All saves are special but Susan’s save touched me personally,” said Indiana Certified AED Specialist Troy Pflugner, who sold the life-saving AED to the school. “I also brought publicly accessible defibrillation to the MSD Warren Township School System where my wife Courtney Pflugner is employed as a K-3 Grade Resource Teacher. Protecting my wife, her colleagues, and the children that she so dearly loves from sudden cardiac arrest is the most rewarding job I could have.”

Local TV station Fox 59 reported that on the day Howard collapsed, she had been scheduled to attend a training on how to handle a crisis at the school.

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