There was something off in Robin Weber’s Feb. 13 evening class at Salisbury University, though she couldn’t quite tell what at first. The sophomore, originally from Westminster, said her instructor was normally upbeat, but seemed somehow unwell that day.
“She was flipping through the slides of this power point and she was sitting in a chair by the computer and she just kind of stopped talking, but she was still flipping through the slides like she was talking,” Weber said. “Then she very quietly said, ‘I’m going to have to dismiss you guys, I think I’m going to pass out.’”
This prompted someone to call out “are you serious?” just before the instructor slumped back in her chair, Weber said, and after a few beats of no one taking action, she decided it was up to her.
“I was like, well, it’s happening, now is the time,” she said. “I was like, well, I’m trained, I’m in this wilderness first-aid class right now so. I just kinda ran up there and was holding her up.”
Weber took a few moments to use combat breathing — inhaling for a count of four, holding for four and exhaling for four — to calm herself, and then took control of the scene. She delegated one person to call 911, another to call university police and someone else to help her lay the instructor on the floor.
“There were like 30 people in this small room,” Weber said. “I was like, ‘Everyone who is not doing something, get out.’”
A quick study
It was exactly what Weber had been taught to do in her wilderness first-aid course, according to associate Professor of Education Diana Wagner, and Weber’s instructor in the class. Of course, the class had only just begun meeting shortly before the incident, which Wagner said makes what Weber did all the more impressive.
“In the moment of the emergency there are a lot of things happening and she took a couple of breaths and jumped in there and followed things textbook,” she said. “So she did combat breathing, assigned roles to everybody and then collected information until university police came.”
Although Weber was initially concerned her evening class instructor could have been having a heart attack, she was OK in the end.
“She just wasn’t feeling well and she had had an ear infection so her equilibrium [was off],” Weber said.
An environmental studies major, Weber is minoring in outdoor education leadership, for which the wilderness first-aid course satisfied a requirement, according to Wagner.
“Wilderness first-aid by definition is emergency care when EMS assistance is more than an hour away,” Wagner said. “I always call it first-aid on steroids. A sprained ankle is one thing, but a sprained ankle when you are 1,000 feet up a mountain and help is three hours away is a whole other thing.”
It’s the sort of thing someone teaching at a summer camp or in a national park, responsible for others in the great outdoors, might well need to employ one day, Wagner said, but that Weber put those skills to use in a classroom just days after learning them really speaks to Weber’s character.
“I’ve only known her three weeks, but she was really engaged and was sort of with me from the beginning,” Wagner said. “I wasn’t all that surprised she was the one that leapt into action. She had a nice calm leadership quality about her from the beginning of the semester.”
Not the First Time
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That evening in class wasn’t the first time Weber had jumped into an emergency when others were unsure what to do. A few years ago, while still at Winters Mill High School, Weber was working as a hostess at Sakura Japanese Steak House in Westminster.
“On Christmas Eve, we had a very, very elderly man just suddenly go completely unconscious. Like in his food. The family was all freaking out, nobody knew what was happening,” she said. “I happened to be in the vicinity and just jumped into the situation because nobody else really was doing anything. We laid him down and I held his head and the paramedics were on the phone telling us what to do.”
Back then, Weber said, she was just following instructions.
“Now that I am taking this class,” she said, “I am learning I can tell myself what to do.”
That’s the sort of focus on taking charge that Wagner said she hopes to instill.
“At the core of our program is leadership. How do you take charge? How do you get people to follow you?” Wagner said. “She really exemplifies what we hope happens when people step out of the classroom, because that’s really where the rubber hits the road.
“We can work on Red Cross mannequins all day long, but when it’s a real person in front of you it’s a whole other ballgame.”