By Alex Lippa
---- — SALEM — The Salem School District never used the automated external defibrillators donated six years ago — until yesterday.
A 62-year-old janitor is grateful there was an AED at Walter Haigh Elementary School — and that school nurse Tara Hayes knew how to use it.
The man, whom school officials would not identify, collapsed in a school hallway early yesterday afternoon. It was a bad situation, but he fell ill in the right place.
“He was very lucky that he was in such close proximity to the nurse’s office,” superintendent Michael Delahanty said. “(Hayes) was able to hear him yell out and saw him grab for his heart.”
Hayes ran out of her office, yelled to a secretary to call 911 and rushed to get the AED to attempt to resuscitate the janitor.
It didn’t work right away.
Hayes had to use the defibrillator twice and also performed CPR before the man regained consciousness.
“She was alert and had a prompt response which helped matters,” Delahanty said.
A scanner report said the man was “unconscious and not breathing” when the 911 call was made.
By the time police and fire responded, the janitor was alert and sitting upright.
“She did an outstanding job,” Deputy police Chief Shawn Patten said. “I give her all the credit.”
The man was in stable condition at Holy Family Hospital in Methuen late yesterday, Delahanty said.
“By the time he got in the back of the ambulance, he was breathing on his own and talking to us,” Salem Fire Capt. Timothy Kenney said. “The nurse had done all the work.”
Delahanty said the janitor had just finished cleaning the cafeteria after lunch when he felt weak and collapsed.
Kenney said each of the town’s elementary and middle schools have a defibrillator. The high school has two, one of which is to be used primarily for sports.
“We hadn’t had to use it in Salem yet,” Kenney said. “But we were glad that they were there.”
Principal Christine Honey-Nadeau said she is proud of the way her entire staff responded to the incident.
“Our entire school staff came together and performed the emergency routines required of this situation with precision and professionalism,” she said. “I’m very proud of them.”
Hayes was assisted by paraprofessional JoMarie Curtis.
Delahanty said Hayes’s actions should assure the community the children of Haigh School are in safe hands.
“It should inspire confidence that we have staff that is able to respond and react appropriately,” he said.