VC Respiratory Care Program students put training into action in real life-and-death situation

Respiratory Care Students 1 Victoria College Respiratory Care Program students, from left, Jessica Jansky, Sandra-Lee Witherspoon and Elizabeth Garza, put their skills to work on March 19 when they revived an unconscious man outside a local hospital.

Elizabeth Garza, Jessica Jansky and Sandra-Lee Witherspoon aren’t scheduled to graduate from Victoria College’s Respiratory Care Program until May. But all three had their skills put to a real-life test early on March 19.

As the three were delivering pamphlets at DeTar Hospital Navarro, they noticed an elderly man laying face down on the pavement near a bus stop across the street from the hospital.

“I was driving and when we saw him on the ground, we all looked at each other like, ‘Should we stop?’ ” Janksy said. “Then we all nodded like, ‘Yeah, we should stop.’ ”

Bystanders told the three VC students that the man stood up from the bench and then immediately collapsed with his face hitting the concrete sidewalk.

“He was face down and we were a little apprehensive to turn him over, but what was the alternative?” Witherspoon said. “Were we going to leave him down or turn him over and try to do CPR on him?”

“I was a little concerned because there was a lot of blood and we didn’t have gloves and masks,” Garza said. “But that just flew out of my mind and just to help this man was the top priority. His face was turning blue. I couldn’t believe this was really happening. Our instincts kicked in that we had to save this person.”

After rolling him over, Witherspoon checked the man’s vitals.

“He didn’t respond,” Witherspoon said. “I checked his pulse and said ‘Guys he has no pulse.’ ”

Garza and Jansky also checked the man’s pulse and determined his heart had stopped. Witherspoon immediately began CPR.

“Usually, you do CPR with a bag, but we didn’t have one available,” Witherspoon said. “He had blood all over his face. There was no way to give him oxygen, so all we could do was give him continuous compressions. His heart wasn’t pumping, so we had to get it pumping.”

After eight minutes of CPR, the man’s heart was revived. The students were able to detect a pulse rate.

“I felt like, ‘Wow, this really works!’ ” Witherspoon said. “We really did just save somebody! It felt great that we were able to do that and help someone stay alive.”

The man was taken by EMS personnel to DeTar Hospital Navarro.

“I am very proud that they felt confident enough in their skillsets to render aid in any way that they could,” said Victoria College Respiratory Care Clinical Coordinator Ceci Oldmixon. “It’s great to know when they asked themselves, ‘Can I do this?’ they were able to act upon the training they had.” 

The students said they were amazed by how they were able to instinctively use their training in a life-and-death situation.

“It just kind of flowed naturally for all of us,” Jansky said. “Of course, we were nervous and questioning ourselves. But it all just kind of came out.”

“It was so amazing how much everything kicked in that I didn’t even realize I was doing everything I was taught to do,” Witherspoon said. “I was like, ‘Wow, everything they teach us here really can save a person’s life.’ ”

All three agreed that the event was proof that they chose the right profession.

“At that moment, it confirmed that this is exactly what I want to do,” Witherspoon said. “I want to help people like that every day.”