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School officials, aide credited with saving life

News Staff Writer

What do Escambia County Middle School Principal Forrest Jones, ECMS Instructional Aide Shamika Barnes and W.S. Neal Middle School Assistant Principal Robert Whitfield have in common, other than each is employed by the Escambia County Public School System?
Quick thinking, along with proper training, recently elevated the three to heroes when a fan at a pre-Thanksgiving basketball tournament suffered a medical emergency inside the ECMS gym.
Superintendent of Education Michele McClung related the heroic actions during the Escambia County Board of Education’s December 15 meeting:
“They [Jones, Barnes and Whitfield] had a team effort at a home basketball game against Neal to save a man’s life,” McClung said. “At the end of the final session, a man who was attending became unresponsive. Several bystanders tried repeatedly to revive him, and somebody called 911.”
Barnes was the first of the three school system employees to recognize there was a problem. She called Jones, then went in to see what the issue was. She found the man unresponsive, with no apparent pulse.
Jones sent Barnes to retrieve the nearest automated external defibrillator while he began chest compressions. When Barnes got back with the AED, another person stepped in to help with the chest compressions, and Jones prepared to activate the emergency life-saving equipment.
(An AED analyzes the heart’s rhythm and, if necessary, delivers an electrical shock, or defibrillation, to help the heart re-establish an effective rhythm.)
Whitfield stepped in and assisted with attaching the defibrillator while necessary compressions continued until emergency medical personnel arrived.
McClung, who said official commendations would be issued to each of the three, explained that each of the county’s public schools now has an AED, as well as a group of people trained to properly use them.
“We have defibrillators at all of our schools, and we have a team of people at each school who are trained to use them,” she said, adding that, “commendations for each of those three will go in their (respective) personnel file, and a copy will be sent to them.”
The superintendent added that the pride in a job well done went beyond school officials, that the trio’s quick thinking and decisive action guaranteed that the holidays would be a lot brighter for one family than they might have been.
“As of last report, the gentleman is at home now, recovering,” she said. “It’s going to be a very happy Christmas for that family.”