Gayla Copeland works at Stormont Vail as a job coach through the Topeka Public Schools’ Special Education Student Internship Program. She was observing a student performing job tasks in the hospital cafeteria February 1st when she heard someone coughing. She turned to see who it was and saw a hospital employee standing with her hands at her throat. When the person couldn’t speak, Gayla knew the woman was in trouble. “I went behind her and put my arms around her, fists below her rib cage, and thrust in and up three times. A piece of food popped out of her mouth”, said Copeland. After making sure the woman was alright, Gayla returned to her duties. A few moments later, staff from the emergency room arrived to find that everything was fine.
Copeland recalls taking CPR classes during the late 1970’s and 80’s. She said it’s amazing that some things do stay with you. “It was very humbling for me and I was amazed that an odd calmness came over me during that time. I truly thank God,” said Copeland.
Terri Deshazer is director of the student internship program at Stormont Vail. She is a special education teacher and social worker as well. “Gayle started last fall. You hope to have someone like her working for you because she is so caring of the students and hospital employees. She has created some great relationships between students and hospital staff. It is an honor to work with her,” said Deshazer.