Franklinton school nurse saves custodian’s life

Published 9:06 am Tuesday, September 12, 2023

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In a heart-pounding turn of events last Thursday, Franklinton Elementary School bore witness to a life-saving act of heroism when nurse Shana Turnage sprang into action upon hearing a distress call from fellow staff member Ms. Denise.

“I heard Ms. Denise yelling through our walkie-talkie. I knew it was urgent,” Turnage recounted.

Turnage raced to the school’s cafeteria, where she was met with a dire situation. Custodian Richard Simmons was lying on the floor, displaying seizure-like symptoms.

“I noticed very quickly that things were going south. He was unresponsive. No pulse. No respirations,” Turnage said.

Turnage initiated CPR while colleagues scrambled to retrieve the school’s vital Automated External Defibrillator (AED). In Turnage’s eyes, the AED was what saved Simmons’ life.

As the school staff dialed 911, Turnage continued her efforts, and before first responders arrived, she had already succeeded in saving the custodian.

“Right before they got here, I felt a bounding pulse, so I felt a little bit of relief, but the entire time through all the chaos, Ms. Rachel, our principal, was praying over us. That is all I can remember is her praying, and I think that had a lot to do with him coming back,” Turnage attested.

Simmons spent the weekend recuperating in the hospital. His triumphant return to the school on Monday was met with jubilation from students and teachers alike, who affectionately refer to him as “Mr. Richard.”

“He’s our ray of sunshine,” said Turnage.

Simmons, acknowledging his prior knowledge of an irregular heartbeat, confessed to never having experienced anything like this before. While he could recall little about the incident, one thing was abundantly clear: he knew who to thank.

“I really have to thank Shana, ’cause if it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be here,” Simmons said.

He also extended his appreciation to the teachers who prayed for him and the students who sent him heartfelt cards. “You know, that’s what really got me. When I wake up, I see all these cards, Mr. Richard, Mr. Richard, Mr. Richard. You never know what you mean to a person until you’re absent.”

Simmons disclosed his impending absence from work as doctors closely monitor his heart and the installation of a new pacemaker.

“I wish I could come back tomorrow,” Simmons said.