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Lord Fairfax Community College student comes to teacher’s aid during seizure

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Julia Waltman

Julia Waltman, 18, of Jeffersonton is a freshman at Lord Fairfax Community College. A certified EMT with the Little Fork Volunteer Fire & Rescue Company, she is studying nursing with the goal of becoming a flight paramedic.

Julia Waltman, a first-year nursing student at Lord Fairfax Community College, was about to leave her information technology class when she noticed something strange. As the classroom emptied, her professor, Jose Nieves, gripped the side of his desk and began bobbing his head.

“I thought he was frustrated,” Waltman recalled. He had been having trouble using his computer during the lesson that Monday, Oct. 4, and had decided to stop class early, she explained.

But when Nieves’ whole body started shaking, she realized that he was having a seizure. And as a trained EMT, Waltman knew she had to act.

“I went up behind him, grabbed hold of him and started talking to him,” she said. “He was responding, at first.”

There were four other students left in the room. Waltman yelled for one to call 911 and another to go get the school security guard.

As Waltman struggled to keep Nieves on his feet, she recalled, Nieves was trying to talk to a dispatcher through an emergency pendant around his neck. But midway through the call, he lost consciousness.

“He stopped seizing and collapsed,” said Waltman. “His knees buckled, so I grabbed him under the arms and eased him onto the floor.”

By Waltman’s estimate, the seizure had only lasted around 30 seconds.

At that point, Waltman remembered, the security guard arrived. They both knelt by Nieves, unconscious on his back, and began checking his vital signs. “I told the [guard] to check his pulse and skin—to make sure it wasn’t getting cold and clammy,” Waltman said. She checked to make sure he was still breathing.

Nieves “was unconscious for about five minutes before we could get a response,” she said, and the teacher kept going in and out of consciousness after that. Throughout, Waltman was relaying updates to the student on the phone with the dispatcher.

Then, about seven minutes after losing consciousness, a second seizure came.

Nieves’ body started “violently moving,” Waltman said, and “me and the security guard just tried to keep him from hitting himself.”

He seized for about 15 seconds, she said, and again lost consciousness.

Waltman and the security guard again tried to get Nieves to respond. He finally “started to come to right as the paramedics arrived,” said Waltman. “The first thing he asked was, ‘What happened?’”

Waltman explained to the paramedics what had happened. By then, she said, Nieves was lucid enough to answer their questions. He was subsequently taken to Fauquier Hospital.

According to the security guard’s report, the entire event—from the initial seizure to the arrival of the paramedics—lasted roughly 10 minutes.

Despite the pressure and adrenaline, Waltman remembers feeling “very calm” during those chaotic 10 minutes. “I knew what to look for, so I never panicked,” she said. It was “important that I knew how seizures worked and knew how to deal with them. I think that helped keep everyone else calm.”

For almost a year, Waltman has worked as an EMT at the Little Fork Volunteer Fire & Rescue Company. It’s been an experience, she said, that has given her the confidence to act in a medical emergency.

“All the students in the class were phenomenally helpful and calm,” said Christopher Coutts, provost of LFCC. “I’m just extremely grateful we had someone in the classroom who knew what to do.”

Nieves has since been released from the hospital and is “doing much better,” according to Coutts. He will teach his class virtually as he recovers at home.

In the moments after the paramedics left with Nieves, and the crowd that had formed around the ambulance dispersed, Waltman had a few minutes alone “to let the adrenaline settle.”

She texted her mother and said she’d call her later. Then she rushed to catch her English lecture.

Reach Liam Bowman at lbowman@fauquier.com

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(1) comment

someone

WOW! Thank goodness for Ms. Julia Waltman. Her cool demeanor is a priceless asset in an emergency situation. I am positive that Ms. Waltman will rise to the tops of her chosen field. Best wishes and Godspeed to her!

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