Halloween wasn’t supposed to be this scary.
But even though the day started off so frightening, thanks to Brittany Isbell, it didn’t end that way. The Beckham Elementary School nurse wasn’t wearing a superhero costume that morning, but she should have been. She not only saved the day, she saved a friend’s life.
It started like a normal, busy day. Students were starting to stream into Beckham on the crisp, cool morning of Oct. 31. The teachers were getting ready for a fun Halloween day.
Isbell stepped out of the nurse’s office and into the hall when she saw three teachers heading toward her. One obviously wasn’t feeling well.
They got her into the nurse’s office and Isbell immediately began quizzing her to figure out what was wrong. She examined the teacher, took her blood pressure, and knew something wasn’t right.
As the teacher’s condition deteriorated, Isbell got concerned.
“I looked at my secretary Shawnda and I said, ‘Hey, I’m going to have to call 9-1-1.’ I’m very concerned at this point.”
While Isbell was in the process of calling 9-1-1, the teacher’s condition suddenly worsened. She stopped breathing and her lips turned purple.
Isbell couldn’t find a pulse.
The Right Person at the Right Time
Isbell is no stranger to medical emergencies. She used to be a nurse in the cardiac ICU and neuro ICU at several hospitals. She’s given CPR to patients multiple times.
But a couple of years ago, Isbell decided she was ready for something different.
“School nursing was a big change for me,” she said. “But I love it.”
Isbell started at Beckham last September and specifically chose the school because of the needs of its students. Beckham is home to many special education students and individuals with severe and profound disabilities.
There’s rarely a dull moment for the Beckham nurse or a medical issue she hasn’t seen.
But Halloween was something new. She had never given CPR to a “friend.”
“It’s definitely different when you do it on someone you’ve gotten to know,” she said.
When Isbell couldn’t find a pulse, she immediately started rescue breaths on the teacher, and Beckham’s security guard helped apply the school’s AED.
Isbell continued CPR until paramedics arrived about five minutes later. By that point, the teacher had become responsive and was breathing again.
“It was a pretty rough morning,” Isbell said. “When you do CPR on someone you’re friends with, it takes a toll.”
The teacher spent several days in the ICU and more than a week in the hospital. But the week after Thanksgiving, she returned to Beckham.
“I saw her the first day she came back, and we hugged, and she cried and I cried,” Isbell said. “I’m just so glad that she’s back on campus. She’s such a light on this campus, so I’m just so glad that everything fell into place that day so that she is still here to share her impact with the students and even the staff.”
Though Isbell performed the CPR, she credits her fellow Beckham teachers and staff who also helped that morning. And she says Arlington ISD helps make sure they are prepared for the emergencies everyone hopes will never happen.
“I just want to give a huge thank you to Annette [Minnerly, director of Arlington ISD health services] and Sarah [Heroman, coordinator of health services] and the steps that they take to make sure that we are ahead of the game,” Isbell said. “I feel like ahead of other districts to make sure we’re prepared as nurses and clinic assistants.”
Beckham’s principal, Christi Wilks, is thankful, too, for the nurse she has on campus.
“It was really a terrifying day,” Wilks said,” and I’m just very thankful … she [Isbell] has been that person from the beginning. She always handles things with such grace and a calm presence. It’s who she is. She’s fantastic.”