A teacher was working with students in her classroom at Eagle Heights Elementary School in Azle, Texas, (northwest of Fort Worth) — when suddenly she collapsed.
What happened next was a textbook example of planning, training, and preparedness: The substitute teacher assisting in the classroom summoned help, and soon Eagle Heights staff were calling 911 and getting help from the main office. The school nurse, Heather Lee, grabbed the school’s Powerheart G3 Automated External Defibrillator (AED) and the school’s established Emergency Response Team (ERT) went into action.
The teacher had stopped breathing, and it looked like a case of sudden cardiac arrest.
Lee began CPR while school counselor Alisa Johnson opened the AED. Lee attached the AED pads, following the audio prompts from the device. Within 30 seconds the AED had evaluated the patient and determined that a shock was required. After the device administered the shock, it prompted Lee to give additional CPR. By that time, the ambulance had arrived.
“The local paramedics just happened to be driving near the school,” said School District Nurse Coordinator Kelly Whitehead. “They were there very quickly, and by that time the teacher was breathing again.”
“The Eagle Heights ERT drills regularly for such emergencies,” Skip McCambridge, Director of District Operations, said. “Each campus and building in Azle Independent School District has access to an AED. Additionally, AEDs are provided for the Azle Independent School District athletic teams and the AHS band. Staff members at each campus are trained on the use of an AED and CPR.”
The teacher was taken to the local hospital and then to Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital in Fort Worth. Her recovery was swift. The sudden cardiac arrest incident occurred April 4, and by mid-April the teacher was back in her classroom, Whitehead said.
Texas has a strong commitment to school AEDs. A Texas AED law passed in 2007 requires that each school district and open-enrollment charter school make available at least one AED on each campus. Azle saw the benefit of that law a few years ago when a student, struck on the chest during an athletic competition, was revived using the school’s Powerheart AED.
“They had everything in place at Eagle Heights and people knew what to do,” Whitehead said. “Each of our schools has an emergency response team, we train regularly, and it paid off.”
Cardiac Science Certified AED Specialist Mark Deener was present at the April 21 awards ceremony to recognize the members of the Eagle Heights ERT who were instrumental in saving their colleague’s life.