First Aid classes | School nurse and staff perform CPR and use AED to save co-worker’s life


School nurse Haley Pepper was about to snack on a donut in her office the morning of Sept. 20, 2019 when she heard a plea for help at Gateway Science Academy South, the elementary school where she worked in St. Louis.

“I’m hearing somebody scream, ‘Nurse! Nurse! Nurse!” she recalled.


When she stepped out in the hallway, she saw the school’s vice principal of operations, Mehmet Okay, who yelled to follow him. She tossed the donut through the doorway toward her desk, ran after Mehmet and followed him downstairs to his office.


The school’s custodian was lying motionless on the sofa in Mehmet’s office. He was not breathing. The custodian had been eating an apple while chatting with Mehmet when his head suddenly drooped.


Haley would later learn that he had suffered a heart attack.

Haley shook the custodian and checked his pulse. Erkan Bayer, who is the school’s technology teacher, had also just walked into the office. Haley immediately started giving out orders to get assistance.


Erkan ran to get the AED equipment while Mehmet called 911. Haley, who has a bad back, also quickly realized she would need a stronger person to lift the custodian from the sofa and lay him flat on his back on the floor.


“I remembered the gym was nearby,” she said. “ I ran to the gym, scanned the room and got the P.E. teacher. I said ‘I need help. Follow me.’


P.E. teacher, Kenyon Klousia, and two other staff members had moved the custodian onto the floor just as the AED arrived. CPR was soon started while Erkan was on the phone with dispatchers who were also giving instructions on the emergency response.

As they performed CPR, Haley said she had no idea if the custodian had choked on his apple or something else had stopped his heart and breathing.


“We had to check carefully if our breaths were going in, and a few times there was apple pieces in his mouth that had to be cleared away,” she said. “So, we were constantly reassessing to make sure we were doing the right thing.”


Only three-and-half-minutes had passed by the time they started to use the AED and administered the first of two shocks. When paramedics arrived, the custodian was breathing and his pulse had returned.


“It was probably 15 minutes all around from the time we called 911 and by the time he was carried out to the hospital,” Haley recalled.

A week later, the custodian called the school to say hello as he recovered. Haley said she isn’t a runner, but she bolted to greet the custodian when he returned to the school weeks later to visit.