The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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March 8, 2012

Teachers push for CPR training for students

WHEATON, Mo. — It was a normal day for Sally Sharp, a second-grade teacher at Wheaton Elementary School. But while she was eating lunch with a group of teachers, something happened that would change her life in ways she never could have imagined.

“I got ready to take a bite of meatloaf, and I remember looking up above my glasses and the room started spinning out of control,” Sharp said.

Melissa Creed, Sharp’s friend and fellow second-grade teacher, remembers what happened next on Jan. 19, 2011.

“She mumbled something, and I looked up,” Creed said. “She was as white as a ghost and fell backwards out of her chair.”

Sharp said she has no memory of what happened next.

“I was trying to tell them I was dizzy,” she said. “I don’t remember anything after that until what I call the twilight moments.”

Creed said she initially thought that Sharp, who is diabetic, was suffering from low blood sugar, but she quickly realized that something more serious was happening. She said other teachers ran to get help and returned with the school’s two nurses. One immediately began performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation on Sharp, while the other ran to retrieve one of the school’s automatic electronic defibrillators.

Creed said she felt powerless to help her friend.

“I’ve had getting CPR training on my to-do list for years, but I had not done it. So, I felt completely helpless,” she said. “Thank God a nurse came in and started the CPR, but if it had been left in my hands, the outcome would have been very different.”

While students and teachers stood praying in the hallway, school nurse Karen Mitchell arrived with an electronic defibrillator and attached it to Sharp.

“I knew we had an AED, but I would have never gotten it because I didn’t know I was capable of using it,” Creed said. “I was so amazed. The nurse popped it open, and it started talking to us.”

After analyzing Sharp’s heart rhythms, the AED sent an electric pulse through her body, effectively jump-starting her heart.

“They put the AED on her, and it was amazing,” Creed said. “The moment it shocked her, she took a deep breath of air. It was just unbelievable.”

Sharp was conscious and responsive when paramedics arrived. She was taken to Mercy Hospital in Cassville and then to Springfield, where doctors inserted an internal defibrillator into her chest.

“It’s like my little ER,” Sharp said.

Sharp said the device, which lies just under her skin, can regulate her heartbeat and administer an electric shock to restart her heart in the event it stops again.

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