Charnei Smith, social work graduate student, said she’s never seen someone die.
“I’ve seen people who are already dead, but to actually see someone die...” Smith said.
Connie Burdick, social work assistant professor, went into cardiac arrest in the parking lot of the UTA Fort Worth campus after teaching a social work supervision class Dec. 19, 2012.
Three of her social work graduate students — Smith, Leslee Matthews and Dante Bryant — jumped in to action to save her life. Burdick, who will be back to teach Thursday, survived the ordeal, and her students will be honored for their actions during a ceremony in February.
“It wasn’t really saving her life,” Bryant said. “I had to do it.”
Bryant and Matthews were walking out of class together that day when someone pointed out their instructor on the ground. Matthews said she and Bryant ran over to help Burdick up. Smith saw Matthews and Bryant running and followed them.
“We thought she just fell and we were going to help her up, but then we realized she was actually dying,” Smith said.
Later, the students found out she had gone into cardiac arrest, Matthews said.
Matthews, who also works for the Fort Worth Police Department, said she just went into delegation mode.
“At that point, I was not a police anything, I was a student,” she said.
Dante began CPR, while Matthews called 911.
“You know how kids lie in the snow to make snow angels?” Smith said, spreading out her arms. “It was perfect because that’s how she was and that’s how we needed her to do the CPR and the AED. She was just lying back like that, all sprawled out.”
Matthews frantically called out for Smith to get security, Bryant said. Bryant finally yelled out assertively for Smith to get a security guard. Smith asked another student to push the access button for one of the campus doors to call a security guard.
Suddenly, Burdick’s breathing and heart stopped. A security guard came outside and Smith asked her to grab the AED, an automated external defibrillator, to restart Burdick’s heart.
“I asked Dante to rip her shirt, and I put the pads on, then I asked everyone to move out of the way and I gave her one charge,” Smith said. “It just took one charge.”
Burdick’s heart started beating again.
“The whole thing lasted maybe seven minutes,” Matthews said. “I was on the phone the whole time.”
When the ambulance arrived, Matthews ran to the front to direct the medics to the back of the building. Matthews ended up riding with Burdick in the ambulance because there was no UTA representative other than the security guard, who had to stay at the campus.
Matthews also called Burdick’s son.
“In class, she had missed a call and she said ‘Oh, it’s my son, I’ll call him back later,’ ” Matthews said. “That’s how I knew who to call.”
Smith said Burdick taught her students to take care of themselves and treat every second as if it were their last.
“She is the best teacher in the program because she cared about us and she cared about the topics,” Smith said.
The three students all agreed that they did what had to be done that day.