No time to waste in an emergency

Photo by Perla Arellano  Amy Cruz, a speech communication major, holds an EpiPen used to inject a dose of epinephrine during an allergic reaction.
Photo by Perla Arellano
Amy Cruz, a speech communication major, holds an EpiPen used to inject a dose of epinephrine during an allergic reaction.

By Perla Arellano

News Editor


A student had an allergic reaction during an Amarillo College class Oct. 7. The reaction was more severe than ones she had had before.

Amy Cruz, a speech communication major, had the severe allergic reaction during her English class after a freshly peeled banana caused her to have hives, leading to her airway closing up, she said.

She said she also is allergic to most fruits, with watermelons and pecans being the worst ones. Her allergies have developed over time, she said.

Cruz said she called her fiancé to bring her an EpiPen because she did not have hers.

Margie Waguespack, an English professor, said she knew she should call the police and asked police whether they had an EpiPen available.

“I knew time was of the essence in this kind of situation,” Waguespack said. “Since she did not have her EpiPen, I was hoping the police would have one available.”

Cruz said that at first, she didn’t believe the reaction was that bad because past reactions had not been as severe as the one on that day, so she rejected having the ambulance called after the AC police were phoned. But the police did not have an EpiPen. It was a mistake on her part, she said.

Waguespack said she made a student stay with Cruz, who took her down to meet her fiancé.

The EpiPen, or Epinephrine auto-injector, is a medical device used to inject a dose of epinephrine during an allergic reaction. It can buy the person a short amount of time to get to a hospital.

“It’s life-saving,” Cruz said. “If I don’t have it and that happened again, it could go to the extreme of having a cardiac arrest.”

The dose of epinephrine is injected into the outer thigh. The device is supposed to be held around 10 seconds and then released; afterward, the person must seek medical care immediately, Cruz said. If the allergic reaction is severe and the person cannot self-inject, then another person must inject the epinephrine, Cruz said.

Cruz said her fiancé took her to the ER, where they told her that if the police had had an EpiPen, it would have saved much time. Her allergic reaction was so severe that it caused her heart to have an arrhythmia, or an irregular heartbeat.

“I was blacking out on the way there since my airway was closing up more,” Cruz said. “It was scary.”

Once in the ER, Cruz said medical personnel put an IV in her, ejected Benadryl and put an oxygen mask on her in order to control her breathing.

Cruz said she stayed in the hospital Monday night and was released about 5 p.m. Tuesday.

Cruz said she would like the AC police to have EpiPens.

“I think it’s important for them to have an EpiPen or multiples just in case,” she said. “You never know what you’re allergic to.”

Waguespack said it would be nice if AC had at least one trained medical professional on campus.

“Since we have so many students on campus, and most colleges have some type of medical personnel on campus,” she said.

Waguespack said she is glad Cruz did receive medical attention and is OK.

“I’m just relieved that the outcome was good,” Waguespack said. “But I know that there are many other medical emergencies that may not turn out so well.”

She advises other instructors to try to keep the class calm, be reassuring and call the police or 911 if appropriate.

Cruz said that if anyone else has a severe allergy, the person should let the people around him or her know about it in case the person has an allergic reaction. That way, students around them will be prepared to assist.

“I have to let someone in each class know that I have an EpiPen and where I keep it,” she said. “Just in case it happens, it’s going to be hard for me to stab my own leg.”

Corp. Darryl Moore, the AC communication and crime prevention officer, said that in cases of emergency, the first thing the AC police does is respond, evaluate the situation and, depending on the seriousness of the situation, they call for an ambulance.

“Chances are that somebody at the scene has already called an ambulance,” Moore said. “But we would certainly make sure that one had been called or have our dispatcher get ahold of the ambulance service.”

For anything more serious than basic first aid or someone suffering from a heart problem for which they have equipment, Moore said, police would contact an ambulance or paramedic service.

Moore said the police do not have medication to administer. When it comes to administering some sort of medication, it needs to be done by a paramedic, he said.

“In all the years that I did police work, even at the city, we never administered any kind of medication,” Moore said.

Everyone in the department went through an academy where they had training in CPR and basic first aid, which covers minor injuries such as cuts, burns and fractures.

Moore said they have handled hundreds of medical emergencies.

“We know what we are looking at,” he said. “We would get there and evaluate what is going on.”

In case someone is having what appears to be heart problem, AC police can hook the person up to an AED, or automatic electronic defibrillator, which will read what is going on with the person.

“By the time we are putting an AED on somebody, we’ve already called paramedics as well,” Moore said.

The police department has three defibrillators: one on the East Campus, one on the West Campus and one on the Washington Street Campus, Moore said.

He gave a hypothetical example of the police responding to a person suffering from a medical condition and denying an ambulance.

He said that if he is able to communicate with that person, he would ask whether they need an ambulance.

“I can’t force them to take medical attention,” Moore said.

“If they are passed out, immediately we are summoning an ambulance. We are not going to waste time.”

Moore said that if anyone believes they are having a health crisis, they should tell students and teachers. He said the longer the wait, the worse the situation can become. The emergency number for the AC police is 371-5911.

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