Giving the Gift of Life

A USF student – mother and grandmother - thanks her rescuers after collapsing outside a classroom at the C.W. Bill Young Hall during finals week.


By Peter E. Howard

USF News


TAMPA, Fla. (Dec. 20, 2012) – Ryan Doehrmann sat outside the classroom in the C.W. Bill Young Hall, cramming for the final exam in his Globalization class.


Out of the corner of his eye, he caught sight of a woman beginning to fall, reaching out her arm for help before hitting the floor. People around her were stunned, trying to figure out what happened. Jared Smith, a student in the Globalization class, dialed 911.


As Smith described the scene to the dispatcher, Marian Lee, the teaching assistant in the class, rushed to the woman’s side, kneeling next to her and brushing away the hair covering her face. The woman wasn’t breathing, her pulse fluttering.  Robert Wright, an Army veteran who had followed Lee out of the classroom, tried rescue breathing and CPR, joining Lee.


Doehrmann had raced to the third floor of the building, which houses the ROTC programs at the University of South Florida, looking for a corpsman with medical training. He found Marine Staff Sgt. Joshua Speer and the two returned to the ground floor.


Speer joined Wright and Bret Arnold, another man helping the woman, and the three of them took turns assisting – first in CPR and then using the Heimlich maneuver to clear the woman’s air passage. Arnold kept talking to the woman, offering encouragement.


In the flag-draped, first floor hallway, Cheryl Hudson, 45, a mother, grandmother and an International Studies undergrad, lay still on the tan tile. She was turning blue. Her pulse was weakening.


The men kept working on Hudson, taking turns pushing on her chest and abdomen to clear any obstructions. They used fingers to sweep clear her mouth and throat. Some chewing gum was pulled out.


University Police Cpl. Ed Lutz, a retired NYPD officer, arrived on the scene, bringing an Automated External Defibrillator, which was hooked up to Hudson. The crew continued CPR. Some air got into Hudson’s lungs. Tampa Fire Rescue paramedics arrived, and the defibrillator was used to shock Hudson.


She started breathing.


Hudson, who has been hospitalized since the Dec. 6 emergency, hoped to be released the weekend before Christmas. She’s looking forward to a special holiday season. She is grateful to the folks who came to her aid, who called 911, who helped bring her back. She has no recollection of the event.


“From what I hear, I was gone,” Hudson said. “I want to say thank you. You gave me a new lease on life.”


The rescuers credit their training for preparing them for what they faced.


Speer, a senior majoring in Criminology who hails from Randolph, N.J., said his Marine Corps training kicked in.


“It was like autopilot,” Speer said. “We train so much for that stuff and when it happened, it happened. We got into it and did what we did.”


Wright, a six-year Army veteran with a combat deployment to Iraq, said his military first-aid training, along with his combat first-aid experience, helped in reviving Hudson. “Everything turned out for the best,” he said.


Arnold, who graduated on Dec. 15 with a degree in Criminology and Sociology, has no military background. But he had taken CPR classes a long time ago. He said everyone should consider at least the basic training.


“You don’t know what you are going to do in a situation like that,” Arnold said. “It just worked out. It did seem like forever, and I don’t even remember taking the exam.”


Lee, a former hospital chaplain, said she herded the students mingling in the hallway into the classroom as the crew continuing working on Hudson. She knew the event would impact the students who observed the action. She briefed Associate Professor Scott Solomon when he arrived to administer the final exam in the Globalization class.


“You’re not really thinking,” she said. “You are in the moment.”


Doehrmann, a junior majoring in International Studies, is in the Marine Corps ROTC program. After witnessing what happened, he said he intends to get CPR training.


“I’m glad she’s okay,” said Doehrmann, who grew up in Murrieta, Calif. “It’s a blessing.”


Hudson agreed. She wasn’t sure what was going to happen over the holidays, but she wanted to see all her family – husband, four children and six grandchildren.


“I hope to get them all together,” she said. A while later, she added: “I’m looking forward to my next term.”


Peter E. Howard can be reached at 813-974-9057.