Principal: Women saved TMS heart attack victimPublished 2:54pm Wednesday, February 20, 2013
By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor
When Thompson Middle School Principal Jeff Atkins saw a group of people rushing to help a woman who had fallen down in the school’s gym lobby on the night of Feb. 14, he feared the worst.
“In my 15 years as a teacher, I’ve never lost anyone in any of my buildings, but I thought it was going to happen that night,” Atkins said as he reviewed school surveillance camera footage of the incident several days later. “I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since that night.”
As parents and students were entering the school at about 6:35 p.m. for the TMS performance of “Guys and Dolls,” a middle-aged woman became ill and sat in a chair in the gym lobby. A few minutes later, the woman suffered a heart attack and fell onto the floor as those surrounding her rushed to her side.
Seconds after the woman hit the ground, two Shelby Baptist Medical Center nurses and a Regional Paramedical Service employee – all three of who were in the building to see the student performance – had taken charge of the situation.
“I was actually up in the bleachers waiting for the show to start when (TMS choir instructor) Jeannie Bubbett said ‘I need someone who knows CPR,’” said RPS Operations Manager Audrey Kimbrough, who joined SBMC emergency room nurses Leann Brown and Robin Anderton in helping the woman.
Kimbrough, Brown and Anderton determined the woman had a slight pulse, and ensured her airway was unobstructed while Atkins sprinted to get the school’s automatic external defibrillator.
“The AED actually verified her heart was still beating, so thankfully we didn’t have to shock her,” Atkins said. “But it provided a printout of her vital signs that was ready when the paramedics got there.”
About five minutes after the woman hit the ground, an Alabaster Fire Department medical team arrived on the scene, followed shortly by an ambulance crew. After starting an IV and reviewing the woman’s vital signs, the medical crews loaded her into the ambulance and transported her to Shelby Baptist.
“Those three nurses never left that woman’s side. They helped the fire department and the paramedics after they got on the scene,” Atkins said. “I talked to the woman’s daughter-in-law the other day, and she said she is OK and has started talking again.”
Kimbrough said she does not view herself as a hero, and said she and the two nurses did only what they were trained to do.
“Your training kicks in when you are caught off-guard like that. You never expect that to happen at a school or a restaurant,” Kimbrough said. “God just put us there where he needed us.”
During a Feb. 18 meeting, Alabaster Councilwoman Sophie Martin, who witnessed the event, praised the nurses, and said they helped save the woman’s life.
“Mr. Atkins said they were angels,” Martin said. “Without them, she could have died.”