Students, Faculty and Staff jumped into action to help save teacher from heart attack

Shannon Lerro at Vanguard
(L-R): Back Row: Dave Buening, Jen Sharp, Angie Welly and Jackie Smith; Front Row: Sara Wilbur, Shannon Lerro and Ann Warner

The lives of students, faculty, staff and a Terra State Community College CCP (College Credit Plus) teacher changed forever at Vanguard-Sentinel Career Technical School in November of 2021.

November 18, 2021, was just another day on the calendar for Shannon Lerro. She woke up, got ready for work and drove to Vanguard to teach one of her Terra State English CCP courses. She felt okay and was not experiencing any symptoms besides feeling a little bit more tired than usual but chalked that up to it being a busy semester. “Out of nowhere, Mrs. Lerro collapses onto the floor when taking attendance at the beginning of the class. Everything happened so fast that we all needed to react swiftly and get help,” said a Vanguard CCP student.

That is when the students, faculty and staff at Vanguard turned into lifesaving heroes. They performed CPR, called emergency personnel and worked to keep everyone calm - saving Lerro’s life.

“I sat down at the computer to take attendance, and the next thing I remember is waking up in the St. Vincent’s Cardiac Intensive Care Unit with a tube in my throat and a pacemaker in my chest,” said Lerro.

The faculty and staff at Vanguard explained that multiple individuals helped save Lerro’s life.

When Lerro collapsed and went into cardiac arrest, she was in a room full of medical students who had been trained and certified in Basic Life Support by the American Heart Association only a couple of days before. One of the medical assisting students ran to the office to get help while another one immediately jumped into action and started performing CPR after the student checked that Lerro was no longer breathing and had no pulse.

After the other student ran to get help, the school secretaries, Jenn Sharp and Ann Warner, urgently called 911 and contacted the school nurse, Sara Wilbur. Wilbur grabbed her medical gear and ran to the classroom where she and the student took turns performing CPR. Once

Warner brought the Automated External Defibrillator (AED), Wilbur used it to deliver an electric shock to Lerro to help reestablish an effective heart rhythm. EMS arrived shortly after, and Lerro was stabilized and taken to the hospital.

During the event, faculty and staff not only stepped up to take care of Lerro but also ensured the safety of the students and the building. Jackie Smith, the criminal justice program instructor, helped create a medical lockdown throughout the campus to ensure all students were in their rooms to prevent them from witnessing the event as well as to keep the hallways clear for EMS.

Student safety is one of the main priorities for Vanguard. The school’s principal, Dave Banning, quickly came to the classroom to escort the students to safety and organized debriefing and counseling for any student affected by the event. Mental Health Counselor Karin Mobley, Guidance Counselor Angela Welly and Smith soon took over counseling.

“From the bottom of my heart, I want to thank all of those at Vanguard-Sentinel Career Technical School for saving my life and giving me a second chance in life. Without them, my cardiologist said I would not have made it. I am one of the lucky ones who happened to have the right people around when I went into cardiac arrest and collapsed. I also want to thank everyone at Terra State Community College, family, friends and coworkers who sent me well-wishes and helped me recover,” said Lerro.