When Geneva High School athletic trainer Nicole Collins volunteered to chaperone the school’s Homecoming dance on Sept. 17, little did she know that she would end up helping a student in a medical emergency.
After senior Bridget Archbold, 17, collapsed while dancing in the school gymnasium and stopped breathing, Collins jumped into action to administer CPR.
“People call me a hero, and, yes, I’d call myself a hero, but in my mind I was doing my job. If I had not been there, the outcome could have been much different,” Collins said. “I know I saved her life. It’s something I’m trained to do ... respond to emergency situations.”
Collins, who graduated from Geneva High School in 2013, was supervising students outside the gym when she heard the music stop abruptly about 9 p.m. She said when she went into the gym to see what happened, she saw a school administrator carrying Archbold.
“I checked her pulse and there was no pulse. I rolled her onto her back from her side, and once she was on her back, I started CPR and did compressions,” Collins said. “I asked a [school] administrator to get the [automatic external defibrillator] outside of the gym, and another administrator cleared the gym. There was a Geneva police officer [at the dance] who called an ambulance. I did two rounds of CPR and in the second round, she started coughing and came to.”
Archbold said she does not remember falling to the floor or undergoing CPR. She said when she woke, the gym was empty and she felt very confused.
“I started crying because I felt like I ruined [the dance] for everyone,” she said. “It hurt to see my peers so upset about what happened to me. When I went back to school, everyone was so worried and said they are glad that I’m OK.”
Paramedics rushed Archbold to Northwestern Medicine Delnor Hospital in Geneva, where she underwent tests. She was sent home later that night. Tests showed she didn’t have any heart problems, but had suffered a seizure, Archbold said.
Bridget’s father, Jeff, said his “heart just about stopped” when he got the call from the school about what happened to his daughter. He said he’s very grateful that Collins was at the dance.
“It is very scary to get a call from school on Saturday night to hear that your child has collapsed, had a seizure and had stopped breathing,” he said. “I am so happy that our schools take time to train the staff on how to conduct CPR. Precious time ticks away quickly when a person is in physical distress. Nicole’s ability to recognize the situation and act quickly was amazing. It was really a team effort by the school. So the staff at GHS really shined that night at the [Homecoming] dance. They taught us a great lesson in what it means to be prepared.”
Archbold will undergo further testing to determine what caused her seizure. She said she’s “scared” and “stressed” because she does not yet have a definitive diagnosis.
“Eventually we’ll find out [what caused the seizure], but I don’t want it to limit me and my activities,” she said.
Archbold and Collins had never met before the Homecoming dance. When she returned to school, Archbold brought Collins flowers, a mug and a handwritten note to thank her.
“It was really nice seeing her. I feel like she saved my life. If she wasn’t there, they probably would’ve waited to do CPR and I could’ve died,” Archbold said. “The shock of what happened still hasn’t really worn off yet. But I’m happy how well my peers and the school handled [the situation].”
Collins said Archbold gave her “the biggest hug” when the two met.
“It makes me feel a whole lot better to see her walk into my training room and to see that she’s getting the follow up care that she needs,” Collins said. “The principal came up to me to make sure I was OK, thanked me for being [at the dance] and the teachers have all come up and thanked me. That makes me feel good because that’s what I’m trained to do. I appreciate everyone reaching out to make sure I’m OK. I’m glad Bridget is OK.”
After years of training, this marked the first time Collins ever had to administer CPR, she said. It was a lot harder administering it on a person than on a mannequin, she said.
“It’s scary, but at the same time, you’ve practiced it,” Collins said. “It’s much harder to do deeper compressions on a sternum, but you never know when things like this will arise. I believe everything happens for a reason, and me being [at the dance] definitely made a difference. I think for the future, I’ll continue to be more involved with the dances, so [the school district] has that peace of mind that if something were to happen again, they have someone there to help.”