Quick thinking saves Langston teacher’s life

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JASON HAWK
EDITOR

When a colleague collapsed, Emily Jindra’s firefighter training kicked in.

Along with a handful of Langston Middle School staffers, the Oberlin guidance counselor stepped in to help save the life of sixth grade language arts teacher Eileen Hickerson, who collapsed last Tuesday in a third floor hallway.

“I felt really fortunate to be in a position where I had some experience to fall back on,” said Jindra, who previously worked as a medic for the Oberlin fire department.

That morning, Hickerson had been spotted in the hallway, not looking well. Jindra said a little later she heard a call for 911 and booked it upstairs, where Hickerson was unresponsive on the floor.

She described feeling adrenaline kick in, pushing her emotions to the side so she could focus on the task at hand.

It didn’t quite feel robotic but “it was kind of like going down a checklist. We were trying certain things and the situation wasn’t improving, so we found ourselves in the point of the checklist where we had to go with more intense measures,” Jindra said.

She started CPR and eventually a teacher grabbed an AED to get Hickerson’s heart back in rhythm.

There are three of those handheld units — automated external defibrillators — in each Oberlin school building, said superintendent David Hall.

The emergency marked the first time AEDs were used at Langston.

Hickerson stopped breathing at one point, he said, and paramedics said that had Jindra not started CPR, she “wouldn’t be where she is now.”

Hickerson was still unconscious when she was taken to the hospital but it was apparent “she was still in the game and still fighting for it,” said Jindra.

She was rushed to Mercy Health Allen Hospital and revived. Hall said the episode was caused by a known heart condition.

Jindra said that once the rescue team arrived, her calmness started to fade. “Once that adrenaline wears off you realize, ‘Oh my gosh, that was really terrifying and emotional,’ and I’m so glad we were able to work so well to get through it,” she said.

As of Monday, Hickerson was still recovering at the hospital, doing much better, and expecting to be discharged, according to Jindra. Hopefully her colleague will get a break to build up her strength before she returns to the classroom, she said.

Jindra said everyone at the school feels an odd bond after surviving the crisis. “The building really came together and you can still feel it… It was just amazing how everybody worked together as a team in that situation and everybody kept a calm head before emergency response arrived,” she said.

“I would say definitely it further gelled us as a team, as folks who care about each other.”