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Epic EpiPen turn about: Teacher gives school nurse anti-allergy injection

Rick Wagner • Apr 10, 2019 at 12:30 AM

KINGSPORT — As a school nurse at Adams Elementary, Stephanie Maynard normally is the one to administer EpiPen injections to students, staff or faculty to offset potentially life-threatening allergic reactions.

But around lunchtime on March 22, the Friday before spring break, fifth grade teacher Beth Ward administered two injections to Maynard that the nurse said saved her life after she had an unexplained allergic reaction. At Kingsport’s Robinson Middle School almost a year ago, a school nurse administered an EpiPen, short for an epinephrine pen, to a student in a similar incident. 

All Kingsport City Schools and many other local schools keep EpiPens on hand for such emergencies through a program with the maker of the allergy medicine.

“Typically it is we as nurses who are doing these lifesaving measures,” said Vicki Johnston, KCS nursing supervisor.

Johnston said the quick response of Ward, who gave Maynard two injections before an ambulance arrived, may have saved Maynard’s life. She said Maynard had a “very quick allergic reaction to an unknown substance” that day.

Maynard, a registered nurse who worked in emergency medicine before becoming a school nurse, said she has given epinephrine to patients in emergency rooms but had never received it herself through an EpiPen or other means.

WHAT HAPPENED?

Maynard said she hasn’t found out what sparked the allergic reaction. While going through mail that Friday, she opened one envelope, and in about 10 seconds her ear began burning, followed by her hands, fingers and arms. 

“I was engulfed with welts the size of pancackes,” Maynard said. As her airway was closing, she asked someone to take the children out of the clinic and requested Benadryl and the EpiPen before she could no longer breathe.

Meanwhile, Ward literally walked into the office near the clinic.

“I happened to be on my lunch break and walking through the office,” Ward said, after which she and the assistant principal headed to the clinic. The administrator shepherded the children out of the room and Ward went to get the EpiPen. 

“I knew where the backup EpiPens were that we can use on anybody,” Ward said.

Then, Maynard started breathing, and the principal called 911. 

Maynard said she knew Ward wouldn’t panic or freeze. The teacher gave the injection just as Maynard had trained her and other Adams employees to do each year.

That shot from Ward, along with the Benadryl, helped Maynard’s airway open so she could breathe again. But the effect of the EpiPen stopped working in about six to 10 minutes, so Ward gave Maynard an injection in the other leg.

Maynard said that ever since the incident, she carries an EpiPen, Benadryl, another allergy medicine and prednisone, a steroid that lessens inflammation, with her at all times.

LESSONS LEARNED?

As for lessons learned from the incident, Johnston gave two takeaways everyone should remember because they could save a life:

1. If you have known allergies, carry your own EpiPen with you at all times.

2. Anyone can learn to administer an EpiPen injection.

Maynard said that every year, she and other school nurses in Kingsport hold a medication training class to teach all the school employees how to operate an AED (automatic external defibrillator) and how to administer epinephrine injections with the EpiPens.

“Do not zone out on medication training day,” Maynard said, because someday someone may need you to use that training. Maynard said she is “blessed to be alive.”

Ward said she’s “just thankful we had them (the EpiPens) in the school” and that Maynard is nurse who has treated Ward’s children, who attend the school, very well.

“She’s an amazing nurse,” Ward said. “I’m thankful they (nurses) do train teachers for that (administering an EpiPen). You never know.”

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