Lancaster, NY -- The Lancaster High School nurse and a history teacher who helped administer CPR and First Aid to a 17-year-old girl last week are being credited with saving her life.
Last Wednesday, as the school day was about to start, a teenager at Lancaster High School fell in the hallway. She was going into cardiac arrest and needed immediate medical attention. Someone ran to get the school nurse, who ended up needing assistance.
"I just threw my stuff to the side of the wall and proceeded to help her and she said we needed to turn her over, so I flipped her over and Liz started trying to wake her up," says history teacher Keith Hopkins.
Just arriving at school himself, Hopkins happened to be in the right place at the right time to help save the student's life.
"Found out she wasn't breathing and we had no pulse and I turned to Liz and said we have no pulse and Liz started doing the CPR right away."
It was the first time in her twelve years at Lancaster High that nurse Liz Ceppaglia had to do CPR.
"I worked in an emergency room in a burn unit, and I've done it there. Never had to do it in a school. You hope that you never have to, but a school nurse always has to be prepared and it's more than just handing out band-aids and dealing with stomach aches, and so, thank God I was there when she needed me and thank God Keith was there to help," says Ceppaglia.
Both Liz and Keith are part of the high school's medical emergency response team. It is a group of about 25 volunteers who work at the school and are ready to help if there is an emergency. The Bowmansville Fire Department credits them with saving this teenager's life.
"This young lady's survival is probably significantly due to the fact that they have that team in place," says First Assistant Chief Bob Sinclair with the Bowmansville Fire Department.
Team members know the exact locations of the high school's three automatic external defibrillators - or AEDs - even the additional portable ones used for off campus athletic activities. And, last Wednesday, amid the chaos of the emergency, everyone did what they were supposed to do.
"I could kind of hear it in the background because my focus was in front of me. But, I could hear it where there were enough adults and they kind of just held everybody back," says Ceppaglia.
Although the state requires schools to have AEDs, there is no requirement to teach CPR in schools. It is taught to 9th graders in Lancaster. There is a push in Albany to make it mandatory.
"It's a great feeling. It is. Because you know that you did everything that you could," says Ceppaglia.
"Somebody said to me, boy, that's a bad way to start the day and I said, no, that's a great way to start the day," says Hopkins. "Because we were able to save a life."
While public schools must have AEDs and someone trained to use them, school nurses are not mandated by the state. That means that any school system looking to slash its budget could legally get rid of its school nurse.
The principal of Lancaster High spoke with the student's mother Tuesday, and she says that her daughter is still in the hospital and is responding to treatment.