EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

April 3, 2013

Salem school nurse modest about saving man's life

By Doug Ireland

---- — SALEM — Tara Hayes saved a man’s life, but she doesn’t consider herself a heroine.

“It’s my job, that’s what I do,” she said.

Sort of.

When Hayes goes to work each day, the Haigh School nurse is accustomed to dealing with approximately three dozen children coping with headaches, sickness and scrapes.

“It’s usually just bumps and bruises, Band-Aids and ice packs,” Hayes said.

She’s not used to dealing with someone having a heart attack.

But it was Hayes’ quick thinking and rapid response that helped save a school janitor’s life Monday, according to school Superintendent Michael Delahanty.

Hayes, 41, a nurse at the school for six years, was in her office with a student when she happened to look out in the hallway and see the 62-year-old man, who appeared very pale.

“I saw him coming down the hallway and he didn’t look good,” she said.

The janitor, whose name has not been released, suddenly collapsed, grabbing a nearby cart to support himself.

“He was holding on for dear life,” Hayes said.

Hayes and paraprofessional JoMarie Curtis ran to help. The man lost consciousness.

Someone called 911 and Hayes began using an automated external defibrillator to shock his heart. Other school employees came to help.

Nothing happened.

She tried cardiopulmonary resuscitation and then used the defibrillator again. The janitor began to regain consciousness.

The man was rushed by ambulance to Holy Family Hospital in Methuen. He was doing well when Hayes spoke to him by telephone yesterday. Both he and his wife thanked Hayes.

“I was just glad to hear his voice,” Hayes said. “I was just glad I could help.”

She said a nurse has to be prepared for anything that could happen at any time.

On her first day at Haigh, a student suffered a severe allergic attack and had to be taken to the hospital by ambulance.

Even though Hayes is an experienced nurse, the Salem mother of three said not even she has nerves of steel.

“You’re always worried you might panic,” she said.

That certainly didn’t happen.

She said most of the school staff has received the optional defibrillator training. The defibrillators were donated to the school district six years ago, but they were never needed until now.

The defibrillators are easy to use, Hayes said. If there isn’t one available, just doing CPR can make a big difference, she said.

“You are better off doing something than nothing,” she said.

School, police and fire officials lauded Hayes.

“She did an outstanding job,” Deputy police Chief Shawn Patten said. “I give her all the credit.”

Hayes said she’s received so much praise from her colleagues, it’s been a little overwhelming.

“The whole thing is surreal,” she said. “I don’t like all this attention.”

Staff writer Alex Lippa contributed to this report.