Cindy Johnston, Sandy Purcell, and Dee Walls— These three members of the school district’s Transportation Safety and Training team may not have wings but Felina Cannon, a GCPS bus driver, calls them her angels because they were at the right place, at the right time, with the right knowledge to help save her life.
Here’s what happened… GCPS bus drivers returned to work on July 29 for back-to-school training, but the day took a turn when Ms. Cannon experienced a seizure. The driver’s breathing became shallow and she lost consciousness. The first call was to 9-1-1, but the three women from GCPS’ Safety and Training team didn’t wait for help. After moving Ms. Cannon to a prone position on the floor, the team found that she had stopped breathing and had no pulse.
The three women worked together to perform compression cycles, also called hands-only CPR, the American Heart Association’s recommended response when dealing with teens and adults who collapse in an out-of-hospital setting. Ms. Purcell started compressions and then Ms. Johnston took over with compressions while Ms. Walls counted the compression cycles. The trainers performed 14 cycles of 30 chest compressions before the paramedics arrived and took over. The paramedics worked on Ms. Cannon for about 20 minutes, shocking her heart twice before transporting her to the hospital, her pulse and blood pressure restored. After the life-threatening ordeal, Ms. Cannon was hospitalized, but the Emergency Room doctor says that the trio who performed CPR saved her life.
On. Aug. 22, Ms. Johnston, Ms. Purcell, and Ms. Walls were surprised with awards by the American Heart Association and the Emergency Response Training and Support Services, Inc., (ERTSS) for their efforts to save their colleague. “Without this training and knowledge of how to do high-quality CPR, very easily this could have been a bad outcome rather than the celebration we’re having now,” says Jeff Partridge, ERTSS president. (ERTSS is the designated CPR training center for the America Heart Association.)
And while the recognition was special for these quick-thinking trainers, it was even better to be reunited with Ms. Cannon for the first time since the medical emergency. For her part, Ms. Cannon— feeling better, though not yet back at work— was grateful for what the Transportation trio did to save her and thankful for the CPR training required for all GCPS Transportation staff. “It’s important to learn, and you think it’s for the kids, but, as we can see, it saved my life,” she says of the training. “Everyone should be CPR-certified,” she says. “You never know who you might need to save.”
Safeguarding students and staff
In Gwinnett, we have at least one AED (automated external defibrillator)in every school and multiple AEDs in many schools (especially our high schools). Every local school clinic worker is required to have CPR certification and each school submits a list of at least five CPR-trained staff members. In addition, our bus drivers and monitors are certified in CPR and get recertified every two years.
A 90-second video can help you learn to save a life. Watch the Hands-Only CPR instructional video and share it with the important people in your life. Hands-Only CPR is a natural introduction to CPR. The AHA encourages everyone to learn conventional CPR as a next step. If you’re interested in learning more about CPR training and other first aid classes, contact the American Heart Association to find a training opportunity near you.