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Watch: Mo. EMT students help instructor suffering seizure

Students at Respond Right EMS Academy had just learned about seizures when hours later, their instructor began convulsing, leading them to put their newly learned skills to the test

By Sarah Roebuck

ST. PETERS, Mo. — A group of EMT students are being recognized after they jumped into action to help their instructor who was suffering a seizure during class, First Alert 4 reports.

Six students at Respond Right EMS Academy in St. Peters are enrolled in an eight-week course aimed at preparing them for the state licensing exam. In the third week of the course, they put their skills to the test.

Donna Weiss, who established Respond Right in 2009 after a career-ending injury cut short her extensive service as an EMT, paramedic and firefighter, moved from her role as chief program officer to teaching 2 years ago, according to the report.

On April 17, Weiss taught a class covering rendering aid to a patient who may be experiencing a seizure.

Weiss told First Alert 4 that she hadn’t been feeling well that day and asked a student to grab her a popsicle, thinking that her blood sugar might have been the reason she was lethargic.

Classroom surveillance video shows Weiss standing up and telling her students she doesn’t feel well. Soon after, she sits down and begins twitching before fully convulsing.

Her students initially thought it was a joke due to the timing but quickly realized she was experiencing a seizure. The students moved Weiss from a couch to the floor and put a pillow under her head.

Adam Hawkinson, a firefighter with the Cedar Hill Fire Department, told First Alert 4 that he began delegating tasks to his classmates. The class started monitoring Weiss’ vital signs and suctioned blood and vomit from her mouth, allowing her to take a deep breath.

Weiss said she has no memory of the vent and the first thing she remembered was being wheeled into the hospital. She watched the footage and saw how her students reacted and came to her aid.

Weiss shared the classroom video and her desire to acknowledge her students with EMS1, writing, “Their incredible reaction and care they took of me is unbelievable for only being in Week 3 of the EMT course. I am so incredibly grateful but also proud of their quick thinking and actions. As I told them, as they described my ‘gurgling’ respirations, if they wouldn’t have turned me on my side and immediately suctioned me, I could be admitted to the ICU right now with aspiration pneumonia, or worse.”

“Do I think they are completely the reason I’m sitting here today? 100%, 100%,” Weiss told First Alert 4. “I already knew they were going to be great providers, but after watching that video, there’s no way you could think they’d be anything but great,”

Weiss credited her quick return to work and full recovery to her students’ prompt actions in calling 911, positioning her on her side, and using a suction machine to clear her mouth and airways. She intends to consult a neurologist for further treatment.