National Nurse’s Week runs May 6 through May 12,; National School Nurse Day is May 9. LEARN MORE.
Cool heads, professionalism and a healthy dose of good luck helped two school nurses, members of the Rondout Valley Federation of Teachers and School-Related Personnel, avert tragedy earlier this school year. After a sixth-grader at the Rondout Valley Intermediate School in Ulster County suffered a yellow jacket sting, Krista Kelly and Joann Redmond followed protocol. “Since she [the student] had no history of allergies, we cleaned and iced the affected area and let her parents know what happened,” said Kelly.
After a 20-minute observation, they sent the girl back to class. The student returned several minutes later panicked, wheezing, covered in hives and suffering a full-blown allergic reaction. The pair leapt into action, administering an EpiPen (an epinephrine auto injector), calling 911 and notifying her mother, Kathie Hikade, a teaching assistant at the district’s Marbletown Elementary School and fellow RVFTSRP member.
“When I got there, Krista and Joann were working as a team to care for her, checking her heart rate and breathing, keeping her calm and administering a second EpiPen when her symptoms continued,” said Hikade. “Sierra [her daughter] kept saying, ‘Am I going to die? Am I going to die?’ and Krista answered ‘No, we’re not going to let you.’”
It took the ambulance nearly an hour to reach their isolated district.
“The entire time they were so professional and calm; because they stayed calm, I stayed calm,” said Hikade, who is thankful the incident happened while her daughter was at school under the nurses’ care. “If it was anywhere else, I don’t know what would have happened. They saved her life and Sierra knows that.”
Although Sierra is fine now, the incident was serious. She spent two nights at Albany Medical Center and must now get monthly desensitizing injections for the next five years. She now carries two EpiPens in case of emergency.
The situation could have been deadly. According to the state Department of Health, severe, untreated anaphylactic shock, which causes sudden blood pressure drops and constricts airways, blocking breathing, can lead to death within minutes. Sierra’s experience underscores the importance of having a school nurse onsite and EpiPens available for general use, said Hikade.
Currently, the state Education Department doesn’t mandate school nurses in every school, and while districts are allowed to stock EpiPens for general use, they aren’t required. “I’m glad we’re a school that had the foundation to respond and the resources (EpiPens) to provide,” said Kelly. “We’re in an isolated area and it’s important we have the interventions we need to help students in time.”
“Although she had been stung before, Sierra had never had a reaction,” said Hikade. “I shudder to think what could have happened. You don’t think of a school nurse as saving someone’s life, but they really saved hers.”
National Nurse’s Week runs May 6 through May 12, the birthday of Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing. National School Nurse Day is May 9. LEARN MORE.