December 05, 2018

Lifesavers make headlines and heartlines

Author: Liza Frenette
Source: NYSUT Communications
Caption: Educators Fred Haag and Shannon Weaver. Photo by Mark Warner.

Oneida teacher Shannon Weaver pulled into the parking lot for her last Saturday morning class in a graduate course, spotting a car on the grass and a colleague standing nearby. She jumped out of her car, and saw her course instructor, Fred Haag, out cold in the driver’s seat of his car.

“Fred was lying back in his seat, his eyes closed. He was not responding,” she said.

After quickly assessing the situation she opened the car door, lowered the seat back and began chest compressions.

A volleyball coach certified in CPR and defibrillator use, Weaver had practiced on a mannequin, but never on an actual person. She pushed on his lifeless chest, while her Oneida Teacher Association colleague Kathy Zangrilli ran into the NYSUT East Syracuse regional office for an AED. Teacher Cristi Spinelli relayed information from the 911 operator she was on the phone with.

Weaver worked.

Chest compressions, rescue breath. Chest compressions, rescue breath.

“It was instinctual,” Weaver said. “You recall everything you learned but you don’t realize you’re recalling it as you’re doing it. It was a very stressful moment ... Emotions were high.”

Finally, she heard Haag’s breath.

“He gasped for air as he came back. I could feel his pulse again.”

The AED wasn’t needed, and the ambulance arrived within minutes.

“The EMTs said if I hadn’t started compressions, he would’ve died,” Weaver said.

Once Haag started breathing, the 911 operator gave instructions to stop CPR, but he had Spinelli tell them each time Haag took a breath.

“I’ve never called 911 for a medical emergency before and it was very hard to stay calm, but I tried my best,” said Spinelli, a third grade teacher and member of the Fayetteville-Manlius TA.

Haag, a retiree from the North Syracuse Education Association, recalls feeling unwell and sweaty when he woke up that morning. He decided he would go into class to drop off paperwork and instructions, then come home and rest. Haag has taught for NYSUT’s Education & Learning Trust for decades.

Early to class, Beth Robinson,  a family and consumer science teacher with the Fayetteville-Manlius Teachers Association, noticed that Haag looked gray and said he’d had some pain across his chest and back.

“We couldn’t convince him to go to Urgent Care or the emergency room,” Robinson said. But she insisted on following him home. The trip was brief. “We weren’t on the main highway yet and he pulled his car off the road.” Robinson has since vowed that if she’s ever again in a similar situation she will not let the person drive.

Haag only recalls that he was driving and “things began to ... swirl around in my head, and I said ‘I can’t be driving like this.’” He pulled over.

When he woke up at the hospital, several of his students were there and had contacted his daughter, Elizabeth. She looked at him and said “Welcome back, Dad,” and pointing to Weaver, said “Here’s the lady who saved your life.”

L-R: Weaver, Haag, Spinelli and Robinson. Photo by Mark Warner.

Weaver and the crew of hero teachers gathered at St. Joseph’s Hospital that October morning to await the outcome of Haag’s surgery. He had one artery that was 100 percent blocked, and another that was partially blocked. Doctors put stents in.

Robinson said that when doctors wheeled him out of surgery, Haag looked around at his students and said ‘I hope everybody picked up their homework.”

Robinson helped set up a meal train on a website and teachers signed up to bring Haag three weeks worth of healthy meals. She has taken many classes with Haag, a very popular regional instructor. This graduate course was “Making Thinking Visible,” which included discussions on the laws of attraction -- drawing people to you that you need. Weaver now finds that surreal.

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