Five students who participated in saving social work professor Constance Burdick’s life Dec. 19 received the Community Hero Award from MedStar.
The plaque they received read, “In recognition of your quick and heroic actions on Dec. 19, 2012, and performing CPR to save the life of Constance Burdick, presented this 19 day of February 2013, by Medstar.” Steven Davis, MedStar associate medical director, presented the award. Social Work Dean Scott Ryan said that he has great pride knowing that such caring students are in the School of Social Work.
“I think all of our students, because they’re social workers, are ones to jump in and take action because we have very caring students,” Ryan said. “In this instance, it saved a life with CPR, but we have students who jump in to help with domestic violence and homelessness – all sorts of issues.”
On Dec. 19, after their class at the UTA Fort Worth campus, social work graduate students Dante Bryant, Charnei Smith, Leslee Matthews and Jennifer Helms worked together to save Burdick’s life. Helms found Burdick in the parking lot and alerted other students. Matthews called 911 and Bryant began to perform CPR. Once CPR no longer kept Burdick’s heartbeat going, Smith restarted Burdick’s heart with an automated external defibrillator.
Burdick said that it was the perfect storm that she went into cardiac arrest at the time that she did.
“They are my living angels they knew exactly what to do and how to do it, and it was divine intervention that they were there and these were the ones that knew what to do, and I am and will be eternally grateful,” Burdick said.
The ceremony included Jennifer Helms, the student who discovered Burdick in the parking lot, and Lisannia Williams, who helped coordinate life-saving activities according to Davis.
Three other students who were instrumental in saving Burdick’s life were also in attendance to receive the award.
“We are very honored. I feel like this is something that we would do for anybody, and it was very endearing that it was our professor that needed help,” Helms said.
Helms said she and Williams were surprised by the award because they didn’t know they would be receiving it until they got to class.
“The one thing that we know that makes the most difference in cardiac arrest survival is having bystanders do CPR and using an AED, automatic external defibrillator, when one is present,” Davis said.
The chances of surviving a full cardiac arrest outside of a hospital are extremely slim, Davis said.
The risk of death increases without CPR, Davis said.
“In fact, in our community, in Fort Worth and the surrounding communities that MedStar serves, 57 percent of the people who suffered sudden cardiac arrest like Ms. Burdick and received CPR from a bystander survived 57 percent, contrasted with only 4 percent who did not receive bystander CPR,” Davis said. “Constance Burdick is literally living proof that bystander CPR and AEDs, the automatic external defibrillator, save lives.”
Davis said this is very uncommon, the way the group organized and cooperated is better than he would expect from a hospital.
“I really encourage all of them to take the compression CPR class, because if Dante hadn’t taken it the week before, and didn’t know how to do it correctly, I wouldn’t be here,” Burdick said. “It’s a one-hour instruction and it saves lives.”
A free CPR compression class is offered through MedStar, and individuals can sign up for it at the MedStar website, MedStar executive director Douglas Hooten said.
Matthews' mother, Rainey Dock Matthews, said she is very proud, it is a very somber moment, and Matthews is generating a movement to get everyone in an organization she is involved in called WeRFabulousFemales trained in compression CPR.
Burdick said she is thrilled to be able to teach.
“I’m learning how to not have stress in my life. It’s amazing how we can get stressed over the things that are not important and I just kind of go with the flow at this point,” Burdick said. “Life’s too short and I love what I do. I love teaching.”