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FMC, and Community Heart Watch Recognize Lifesaving Efforts at Local School

On April 27, Fairfield Medical Center and representatives of the organization’s affiliated Community Heart Watch Committee recognized seven Lancaster City Schools staff members for their lifesaving actions during a medical emergency in January 2021.

Sudden cardiac arrest can strike any time – and anywhere – without warning. Sarah McGraw-Thimmes, District Health Coordinator for Lancaster City Schools, and her fellow faculty members realized this terrifying truth when a student unexpectedly collapsed in the classroom on Jan. 20, 2021.

“I got a phone call that a student had collapsed in the Stanbery Building, and as soon as I entered the room, you could feel the tension,” Sarah recalled. “It became very clear that this student hadn’t fainted or passed out: this was something serious.”

By the time she arrived, someone had already called 911 and the scene had been cleared, allowing Sarah – a registered nurse – to evaluate unresponsive Hayden Voris, 18, and begin administering care in a matter of seconds.

“I did a quick assessment and immediately started CPR,” Sarah recalled. As she performed chest compressions, another teacher ran for the nearest AED – thankfully, it was only steps away. “Within 10 seconds, the AED was there by my side.”

Like a synchronized team, Sarah and her coworker traded roles – a fresh pair of hands took over CPR while Sarah followed the simple prompts of the AED. With the device on, defibrillator pads placed and the machine automatically analyzing the Hayden’s heart rhythm, a message of hope was delivered: shockable rhythm detected. The team stopped CPR just long enough for the AED to safely deliver an electric shock, and they resumed compressions just as quickly.

By the time EMS arrived to take over care, the Lancaster City Schools faculty members had done everything by the book – and together, their efforts saved a life.

“My goal has always been to give people the confidence to take action during a medical emergency,” Sarah said. “My teammates – Debra Bates, Ashley Rainier, Anthony Knickerbocker, Donna McCance, Brenda Zeiders and Kim Elkins – did exactly that. I couldn’t be prouder of each of them.”

Passionate about saving lives in the community, Sarah’s heroic efforts didn’t end once the student was transported. Instead, she went the extra mile, pulling the EKG report recorded by the school’s AED and sharing it with the Hayden’s family and doctors. It was a decision that likely saved him from future incidences of life-threatening cardiac arrest.

“The EKG revealed a type of irregular heart rhythm called Torsades de pointes,” Sarah explained. “Because the AED was able to record the arrhythmia as it was occurring, we were able to pinpoint the cause of this Hayden’s cardiac arrest – and that means we can prevent it from happening again. Not only has he fortunately made a full recovery, but now he can also have some peace of mind.”

Did You Know?

Sudden cardiac arrest affects nearly 356,000 Americans each year, and without bystander intervention, only 1 in 10 will survive. By knowing how to respond in an emergency, you can double or triple a victim’s chance of survival.

Are you ready to become a hero?

Become a Hero

Download the PulsePoint AED app to quickly identify the location of AEDs in your community. For more information on CPR classes, contact community educator Resa Tobin at Businesses interested in receiving their Heart Safe Accreditation through training and education are encouraged to contact community outreach coordinator Teri Watson at