2004-03-05 / Front Page

NYPD, School Nurse Save Teacher’s Life

By Howard Schwach
NYPD, School Nurse Save Teacher’s Life By Howard Schwach


The life of a Far Rockaway High School teacher, who collapsed into the arms of a colleague on February 26, was saved by the quick work of an NYPD sergeant, a police officer who works regularly in the school, and the school nurse.

Teacher Wendy Harris, 54, was team-teaching in an English As a Second Language class with another teacher at 9:40 a.m., when she said that she did not feel well. Harris reportedly took one step towards the other teacher and collapsed in front of a room full of students.

The other teacher called for help. A School Security Agent happened to be walking by the classroom and called for an ambulance on his radio.

Police Officer Duane Franklin, assigned on a regular basis to the school, heard the call and repeated it on his NYPD radio.

Sergeant John Williamson, who had just left the school, heard the call and rushed back into the building.

Williamson, a licensed Emer gency Medical Technician (EMT) who had worked for the city in that capacity before joining the NYPD more than 17 years ago, rush ed to Room B-45 in the school’s basement.

He saw Franklin attempting to re vive the teacher.

"I saw she wasn’t breathing," Williamson told The Wave. "I have seen that before many times."

Just as Williamson was beginning to work on Harris, Nurse Practi tioner Susan Roberson, who works at the school three days each week, came into the room.

Williamson began CPR, doing the compressions while Roberson did the mouth-breathing.

"We started CPR within two or three minutes from the time she collapsed," Williamson said,

Police officials credit their quick action with saving her life.

"If he [Williamson] had not acted so quickly, she would have died right there," a police spokesperson said.

A gym teacher at the school brought in the school’s defibrillator and the duo attempted to shock her heart back into action, to no avail.

They continued CPR until city EMT’s and firefighters responded.

They put Harris in an ambulance and Franklin continued CPR on the way to the Peninsula Hospital Center. During the transport, the EMT’s and Franklin found that Harris had a weak pulse.

She was immediately stabilized and admitted to the hospital’s intensive care unit.

Williamson went to PGH the following day to check on Harris and met her family.

"They thanked me for saving her life," he said, but it was really a team effort with Franklin and Roberson that got the job done."

At press time on Thursday, Harris was reportedly still being treated at Peninsula Hospital Center.

A family member, who asked not to be identified, said, "Wendy is a well-respected teacher, both by the students and the faculty. We urge everybody to pray for her full recovery."


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