St. Louis school staff use Chain of Survival training to help save a coworker who was suffering a heart attack

Staff at Gateway Science Academy acted fast to save a custodian when he displayed signs of a heart attack. Their training with CPR Plus and knowledge of the AHA Chain of Survival helped ensure a good outcome for their coworker.

When Haley Pepper grabbed a snack from the teacher’s lounge, of course she wasn’t expecting her break to precede a life-saving event. The registered nurse at Gateway Science Academy-South typically tends to scratches, asthma attacks, and the occasional food allergy. But on this warm September day, she was also able to help save a life, thanks in part to the training she and her colleagues had recently received.

CPR Plus has provided first aid, CPR, and AED training to Gateway Science Academy’s three campuses for ten years. And in the early fall of 2019, they taught a course for teachers and staff. Only a few weeks later, Pepper and her colleagues put their training in CPR, AEDs, and the Chain of Survival to good use.

Just down the stairs from Pepper’s office, a custodian stopped breathing — the result of a heart attack, she’d later find out. His coworker yelled for assistance, and the school’s assistant principal of operations ran to Pepper’s office to get medical help. When they returned, the custodian lay on a couch in a facilities office, eyes open blankly, not breathing. After shaking him and checking his pulse, Pepper began giving orders; a technology teacher ran to get the AED equipment, another staff member called 911. By the time they employed the defibrillator and began shocking the custodian’s heart, only 3.5 minutes had passed.

What is the Chain of Survival?

According to the American Heart Association, the five links in the out-of-hospital Chain of Survival are:

  • Recognition of the cardiac arrest (heart attack) and quick activation of EMS
  • Early CPR with emphasis on chest compressions
  • Rapid defibrillation (i.e., use of an AED)
  • Basic and advanced emergency medical service
  • Advanced life support and post-cardiac arrest care

“When a person has a cardiac episode like a heart attack, the heart goes into a rhythm called ventricular fibrillation,” said Stacy Graff Baehmann, founder and owner of CPR Plus. “For every minute the heart remains in that state, a person’s chance at survival decreases by 10 percent.”

Because Pepper and her colleagues acted quickly, they were already performing life-saving techniques full minutes before paramedics arrived. And because they had purchased AED equipment to have on site, they were able to employ the tools needed to restart the man’s heart and sustain him until an ambulance could rush him to a hospital. The man survived; two weeks later, he returned home. 

“When I worked in a hospital, this is what you were expecting and this is what you were prepared for,” Pepper said. “This wasn’t even on my radar for the day. Yes, I’ve done CPR, but I wasn’t expecting this to happen on a regular day at work.”

Is your staff ready if someone has a heart attack?

Emergencies happen when you least expect them. Feel a little safer and prepare your staff and organization to make the best of the worst with the help of our training courses.