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Wayne Post
  • A night of gratitude: Canandaigua woman thanks lifesavers at Newark school, Lyons paramedics

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  • NEWARK — Finger Lakes Community College admissions counselor Jane McComb returned to Newark High School Wednesday night to thank people for just one thing.
    Saving her life.
    Arriving at the school on Nov. 7 with other FLCC staffers, McComb got as far as the sidewalk before things went bad quickly. She passed out and woke up to find more than a dozen school employees and bystanders surrounding her, providing medical care and offering whatever comfort they could.
    In the minutes she was unconscious, the high school reacted with a full-scale emergency response. Nursing supervisor Sharon Wiltsie and LPN Robyn Monahan performed CPR and used a defibrillator to bring McComb back.
    She had suffered a heart attack.
    “That morning I got up like normal, I drove to work like normal,” said McComb, of Canandaigua. “I didn’t feel anything different.” Then she stepped onto the sidewalk, pulling a suitcase.
    “It just happened,” she said. “It was a complete shock to me.”
    On Wednesday night, McComb addressed the Newark Board of Education and staff members.
    “I’m so glad to be here and actually make it into the building this time,” she said.
    FLCC President Barbara Risser told the school board that its staff members demonstrated “incredible teamwork and heroism” in reacting quickly to McComb’s needs.
    “They saved her life because they knew exactly what to do,” Risser said. “I can’t tell you how grateful we are at FLCC.”
    Laila Paliotti, administrator of FLCC’s Wayne County Campus Center, was with McComb when she collapsed. Newark was the first of three planned stops that day, with the FLCC staff there to provide information for prospective students. It was Paliotti who summoned help.
    “I put my coat over Jane and I unfastened her clothes because I knew that time was of essence,” said Paliotti, adding that school employees were by McComb’s side within seconds. “The school obviously has a great crisis response team.”
    Assistant Principal Nick Ganster radioed Principal Tom Roote about the emergency and 911 was called. Roote came outside quickly and checked McComb’s pulse — he found no signs of heartbeat. Seconds later, Jay Flock, the district’s coordinator of student affairs and head of the Safety Committee, arrived with the nurses.
    Roote said Monahan provided steady guidance about the life-saving techniques they were employing. He also credited several others who quickly performed various other important tasks. Among them are Brian Read, administrative assistant; school counselors John Ginter, Sue Gardner and Kris Anderson; Mary Ann Volk, secretary for the guidance department; and Gene Shippers, custodian.
    “I couldn’t be more proud of our Newark family,” Superintendent Matt Cook said Wednesday, “especially everyone involved in this really life-saving effort.”
    When the 911 tones were sounded for an ambulance, all three Newark units were on call, so the Lyons Town Ambulance responded. Paul Fera, administrator of the Lyons department, met paramedic Brandon Howard at the scene. Howard, who works part-time for both ambulance crews, left a dentist’s office to respond.
    Page 2 of 2 - Todd Blanchard, chief of the Newark-Arcadia Volunteer Ambulance, said it was “completely unusual” for McComb to have been revived before Fera and Howard arrived. “I’ve done this for 20 years and I think I’ve had it happen once, maybe twice,” he said.
    “I want to apologize to the person who gave me CPR,” McComb said last night. “I kept saying, ‘I want to sit up.’ And she kept saying, ‘No, you can’t.’”
    After taking an electrocardiogram in the ambulance, Fera knew McComb was in trouble and needed specialized care. The staff at Newark-Wayne Community Hospital told him to take her directly to Rochester General Hospital.
    The emergency room physician and cardiologists who treated McComb marveled at her resuscitation, said Fera. On his drive back to Lyons, he stopped at Newark High School to tell those who had helped McComb that her prognosis was good. “They were just so relieved,” he said.
    “When I think of what possibly could have happened to me that day …” McComb said. “Not only did they respond to me so fast, they were very, very caring.”
    Risser and McComb presented everyone involved in the rescue with FLCC blankets and a certificate of appreciation — and McComb had huge hugs for all, especially Monahan.
    When Shippers, the custodian, approached her, he said, “It’s so nice to see you standing.”
    “This incident allowed us to utilize at least parts of the crisis training we’ve received, and I’m confident we’re able to provide a well-coordinated response for just about any emergency,” said Roote.
    McComb, who said she’s getting stronger every day, was well enough to return to work early this week. She was also pleased to find out that her paramedics, Fera and Howard, received their training through FLCC’s paramedic certificate program. Fera, in fact, was part of the college’s first paramedic class in 1998.
    What went around came around.
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