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'Team effort' saves life of teacher who collapsed in class

'Team effort' saves life of teacher who collapsed in class
Posted at 4:41 PM, Jan 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-16 16:45:16-05

FREER, Texas — When Freer Junior High School history teacher William Holmes recently stopped breathing in his classroom, it was his quick-thinking students and colleagues who set off a domino effect that would save the former coach's life.

Brother and sister Keyanna and Evan Cuellar were the only students in their classroom last Thursday when they realized their teacher was in medical distress.

“We were doing our work, and the next thing we know, he started making noises,” Keyanna said.

It turned out the former coach was suffering a heart attack, and his condition quickly was worsening.

After the shock of what was happening wore off, Evan said he immediately ran to the school's administration office for help.

“I just got up, and then I froze in the doorway," he said. "And then I remembered what I was supposed to do."

Paraprofessional Angie Greer was the first adult to examine Holmes, who, by then, was slumped over in his chair and not breathing. She called out for help, for someone to call 911, and to bring a defibrillator.

As they waited for it to arrive, fellow teacher and coach Cindy Freeman performed CPR on Holmes -- a required skill for all the district's coaches. Soon, school nurse Lori Ruiz brought that life-saving device to the classroom, using it to restart Holmes' heart and get him breathing again.

While Ruiz said she never expected to have to use one on-campus, she's glad all the district's schools are outfitted with them.

Holmes is set to be released from the hospital soon, which is good, Freeman said.

“We miss you," she said. "We want you back as soon as possible.”

School nurse Ruiz credits the school district's camaraderie for allowing this story to have a happy ending.

"Freer ISD is a team," she said. "We’re always going to protect each other and take care of our own. And that’s exactly what happened that day."

Holmes wholeheartedly agrees, and and is grateful for everyone who was there to help that day.

"I’m just very lucky to have a family like that -- to be working at a school where people take care of each other," he said. "I’m very lucky to be here. And it wouldn’t have happened if they weren’t there for me.”

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