School nurse, student resource officers save parent’s life at high school

by Jennifer Taggart

A parent’s life was saved at Brecksville-Broadview Heights High School in early September during a parent-teacher meeting in the guidance office.

The woman, who has asked to remain unidentified, became unconscious and unresponsive, so a staff member hailed Lisa Witzke, the school health care coordinator, from the school clinic.

Witzke opened the woman’s airway, but she still wasn’t breathing. The others in the room helped Witzke bring the woman to the floor, and she began CPR. The woman initially had a pulse, but lost it, so Witzke called for assistance from school resource officers Sgt. Rob Novotny and Patrolman Jose Garcia. Novotny brought the automatic external defibrillator machine.

Broadview Heights Police Department patrolman Jose Garcia (l) and Sgt. Rob Novotny are honored at the Sept. 24 Brecksville-Broadview Heights Local Schools Board of Education meeting.  Photo courtesy Broadview Heights Police

“As an officer, you are required to have regular CPR and AED training,” Novotny said. “The training almost seems mundane and repetitive, but when the emergency situation happens, your muscle memory takes over, and you’re not even really thinking about the details, and you just start following your training.”

The officers opened the AED machine while Witzke continued CPR. The officers put the AED pads on the woman’s chest, and the machine instructed the team to deliver an electrical shock to the woman. After they delivered the shock, the team continued to administer CPR to the woman until she regained her pulse.

By that time, a squad from the fire department had arrived and used the AED to administer a shock once more before taking the woman to the hospital.

She is now home from the hospital and doing well, according to the officers.

BBHHS has two AED machines: one near the main entrance and the other on the opposite side of the building, near the auditorium.

In over 20 years of working at the high school, Witzke said she has never had to use either of the machines.

“I think we learn from each situation and improve our response,” she said. “I think it shows that we are prepared, and I’m glad we are.”

Witzke, Novotny, Garcia and the squad from the fire department (Joe Fleming, Lt. Al Leonard, Brian Burke, Matt Conklin, Dan Schreiber and Mike Franco) were recognized for saving the parent’s life at the Sept. 24 Brecksville-Broadview Heights Board of Education meeting.

“That’s what the school and city pays us to do as first responders,” Novotny said. “It was nice to be recognized, and I’m very humbled by it. It was very thoughtful of them to give us the recognition, but it’s not really what we get into this job for.”

Added Witzke, “It was a team of people that worked together to save her. I’m just glad I was here. God put people in the places he wanted that day, and luckily I was here at the time it happened and close by and had people to help me. I’m just really thankful that she survived.”

Featured image photo caption: From l-r, Broadview Heights Police Department patrolman Jose Garcia, Brecksville-Broadview Heights High School health care coordinator Lisa Witzke and Sgt. Rob Novotny worked together to save a parent’s life. Photo by J. Kananian