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Tampa school gets A on real-life test
When a teacher collapses, kids and staff members rush to help.
By Jessica Vander Velde, Times Staff Writer
Published March 7, 2008
Shirley Schoeler, right, hugs Ruby McKenzie, a reading resource teacher who assisted when Shirley's daughter Shelly Copeland, 32, went into cardiac arrest while teaching third grade at Folsom Elementary School on Tuesday.
[Kathleen Flynn | Times]
Shelly Copeland collapsed while talking to a student. Quick action likely saved her life.
TAMPA - Immediately after third-grade teacher Shelly Copeland collapsed on the floor Tuesday morning, students and co-workers at Folsom Elementary jumped into action.
Third-grader Jarrett Rivera ran toward the office to get help. A student teacher in the class sounded an alert on the intercom. A crisis team of school personnel trained to administer CPR and to use a defibrillator shocked her heart back into action.
Those efforts likely saved her life after she went into cardiac arrest when an electrical impulse going to her heart malfunctioned, her doctor said.
She's better now, resting in University Community Hospital's intensive care unit with her parents, sister and husband at her side.
Dr. Nirav Patel said Copeland, 32, won't have permanent brain damage. That's partly due to the quick response of her co-workers, hospital spokesman Will Darnall said.
Copeland collapsed while talking to a student. The student teacher in room called a code blue on the intercom, which means someone passed out, coach Rob Nault said.
He ran to the classroom, where school nurse Helen Wilder was already administering CPR. The children had been taken out of the classroom.
Then the crisis team, which includes principal Marjorie Sandler, came with an automated external defibrillatorto shock Copeland's heart. That kept her going until paramedics arrived, Darnall said.
She was taken by ambulance to the hospital's emergency room, where they used a defibrillator several more times to stabilize her heart, Darnall said. She was then moved to the intensive care unit, where doctors used a procedure never before tried at University Community Hospital.
Dr. Patel induced hypothermia by lowering her body temperature to about 90 degrees. It helped her heal by slowing her brain's consumption of oxygen, he said. They raised her temperature Thursday morning, and she awoke and began speaking normally. She hasn't lost any memory except that surrounding her fall, said her husband, Kirsten Copeland.
She'll need more time to recover, he said, but she's eager to return to her students. She wants to help prepare them for the upcoming Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.
"Shelly's worried that she didn't leave her lesson plans behind," her mother, Shirley Schoeler, said.
But Schoeler, who flew in from Portland, Ore., isn't letting her daughter return to school until she's fully recovered.