A teacher’s job is to instruct students, guide them through life and protect them. However, sometimes the students do things for their teachers as well. In the case of Alisha Byerly, her students ended up saving her life – and learning the meaning of Long QT Syndrome first hand at the same time.
It all started on a normal day at Morningside Elementary on November 2. Byerly, a 44-year-old literacy dyslexia interventionist, was going about her day as normal when she suddenly starting feeling weird.
“I became dizzy, with a slight discomfort in my chest,” she said in a recent press release. “I just had a woozy feeling. I was unconscious after that.” At that moment, Byerly’s heart was going into cardiac arrest!
With the quick thinking of her students and the school’s first responders team, Byerly’s life was saved. Paramedics arrived minutes later to rush Byerly to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital – Plano, where after several tests, she learned that she suffers from Long QT Syndrome. “It’s estimated that it affects one in 2,500 Americans – and many don’t even know they suffer from it,” stated a recent press release. “Sometimes, without proper exams, it can be misdiagnosed as epilepsy.”
Two days after her cardiac event, Byerly had to undergo a surgical procedure to have an internal cardiac defibrillator placed near her heart. “I didn’t have a part in it,” Byerly said in a press release. “I just benefited from it. I’m thankful that we had an AED on campus and trained individuals willing and able to keep me alive.”
So what exactly is Long QT syndrome, and how do you know if you have it?
“Long QT syndrome has to do with an electrical recharging problem of the pumping chambers of the heart between consecutive heart beats,” explained Dr. Sumeet Chhabra, cardiac electrophysiologist at Texas Health Plano. “It can only be diagnosed on an electrocardiogram (ECG) or medical-grade inpatient or outpatient cardiac rhythm monitor. Usually, this interval is something that all doctors and nurses are trained to make note of when reviewing a patient’s cardiac rhythm.”
Chhabra went on to explain that Long QT has two forms – congenital Long QT and acquired Long QT. Congenital cases are typically found in families, whereas acquired cases usually result from prescription or over-the-counter medications or from electrolyte disturbances in the blood. “The challenging part of making a Long QT diagnosis is that it may not show up all the time on a patient’s ECG,” said Chhabra. “What was unique about Alisha’s case was how great her students and her colleagues at the school responded to her witnessed collapse from cardiac arrest. A report from the Institute of Medicine from 2015 reported that of 395,000 annual cases of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest, only 6 percent of people survive. Alisha, because of the great response of bystanders in the field, has become one of those survivors.”
Congratulations to Byerly’s students, her school’s first repsonders team, and the medical team at Texas Health Plano for quick thinking and lifesaving action! We are happy that you have beaten the odds and can spend another day teaching the minds of the future.