Dialing 911 and performing CPR are not always enough to prevent death from a heart attack, however use of an automated external defibrillator (AED) can increase, by up to 40 percent, a person's chance of survival. Ask Mexico High School Health Teacher Roger Turner – who recently suffered a heart attack, while teaching his summer school health class.
Turner considers himself one lucky survivor, thanks to the lifesaving efforts of his fellow MHS staff, the school resource officer and the students in his class.
"It's still mind-boggling and hard to digest and hard to imagine," Turner told The Mexico Ledger Tuesday, a week and a day following his heart attack. The 24-year veteran high school basketball coach admits he has an intense nature and that he may have ignored signs of his forthcoming heart attack.
"I woke up the night before and just felt odd and kind of weird. I didn't have any pain going down either arm or pain in the chest, just heartburn. But I sometimes suffer from acid reflux, so I thought it was that," Turner said. His heart attack happened on June 17. When he awoke that morning, he said, the odd feeling was a little worse.
"I thought about calling in and taking a sick day, but my stubbornness wouldn't let me do it. I just don't like to call in when I'm sick," Turner said. "So, I went ahead and decided to go to school, and I'm thankful I made that decision. If I hadn't, I probably wouldn't be here today."
When Turner arrived at the school he said he still wasn't feeling well. His symptoms included upset stomach and the same weird feeling he felt earlier, but still no real pain.
"When health class started, I told them I just don't feel good today and gave an assignment that would keep them busy and take a couple hours to complete," Turner recalled. Once the students had finished the assignment and returned from break, he said, they were talking when all of a sudden he got really hot and felt on the verge of fainting.
"This had happened to me a couple times before and I knew it was getting ready to happen again," Turner said. And then he fell unconscious to the floor. "All I remember is gradually putting my hand against the wall to steady myself."
What Turner wasn't aware of was the collaborative efforts of the MHS group that had resuscitated him, using CPR, the AED and the swift responses of those who helped save his life.
MHS Principal Dr. Terry Robinson and District Head Nurse Angie Anderson said that one of Turner's students got on the intercom and one student ran downstairs to the office to make sure someone was there, while yet another student ran down the hallway to get a teacher for help. Amidst all of that, School Resource Officer Jeremy Brouillard – whose office is located across the hallway from Turner's class – was alerted by all the commotion and immediately started administering CPR.
Page 2 of 2 - Meanwhile, Dr. Robinson had grabbed the AED from downstairs and joined Nurse Anderson, who had rushed to Turner's room, where Brouillard was trying to revive Turner's heart rate.
"After a minute or two of chest compressions and he wasn't responding, we took the AED and gave him one shock to get his heart rate back," Robinson recalled. When the paramedics arrived, he said Turner had his color back and a heartbeat.
"When I woke up and had EMTs over me I remember saying 'Are you kidding me? This can't be happening to me,'" Turner said. "Well, guess what? It did."
After a stint placement and a few days of observation at Audrain Medical Center, Turner was released from the hospital, with a few healthful instructions. Earlier this week, he visited with the students in his class and expressed gratitude to all those who had come to his rescue.
"Obviously, the good Lord has given me a second chance," Turner said. He has already started making changes in his life. Turner said his diet is completely different, he's increased his exercising and is proud to say that he's learning how to relax and enjoy life more than before.
The 53-year-old plans to take the rest of the summer to recuperate, and then return to teaching this fall helping Coach Ed Costley with the MHS girls basketball team.
His advice to men his age: "Take care of your health, learn how to relax and don't let things annoy you. Take more vacations to recharge your battery and enjoy life."
His advice to school districts that don't have AEDs: "I strongly suggest you get one. And don't worry about the cost – it's worth it. If we hadn't had one here, I don't think I would have lasted until the EMTs got here.
"I owe my life to the MHS staff, my students, and the nurses and doctors at the hospital, and I feel very fortunate."
Dr. Robinson noted that the district's former head nurse, Diane Melahn had applied for a grant to purchase the AED many years ago, and he commends her for her foresight to have one in the building. The collaborative efforts shown by his staff and students, Robinson said, "shows we all work together and care about everyone who works in this building."
And though the students were moved out of the classroom while the staff and paramedics worked with Turner, Robinson commended them as well, for being helpful and not panicking.
Mexico High School offers Red Cross CPR and First Aid and AED training that is mandatory for coaches and optional for teachers and staff.