Member uses union CPR training to save a life

Most members who get AFT training in CPR, or cardiopulmonary resuscitation, will never have the chance to use it, but that turned out not to be the case for Robin Herrin, a special education paraprofessional who saved a woman’s life on New Year’s Eve.

“I didn’t want the mother to die in front of her daughter,” says Herrin, a member of Red River United in Shreveport, La.

Robin HerrinShe was ringing in the new year with her husband and sister-in-law at a nearby resort casino when, after dinner, she heard a woman cry out for help because her wheelchair-bound mother had slumped over and stopped breathing.

Herrin had taken CPR training at the AFT several years ago. She ran over to find the older woman without a pulse or breath and noticed that her lips and nails were turning blue. As she’d practiced in AFT training, Herrin stated that she knew how to do CPR, asked a bystander to call 911, and told another bystander to bring the hotel’s defibrillator. Next, she sought help in lifting the unconscious woman from her wheelchair to the floor.

Although she’d learned that health professionals are moving away from mouth-to-mouth resuscitation in favor of chest compressions, Herrin wanted to make sure the woman hadn’t aspirated. “The hardest part of it was she’d been vomiting a little, and I just couldn’t wait for a mouth shield,” she says, adding that she cleared the airway and gave the unconscious woman a few breaths before starting compressions.

Counting the number of compressions as she went, Herrin figures she did somewhere around 30 of them—not even enough to make her arms grow tired. It seemed like just a few breaths and a couple of rounds of compressions before paramedics arrived. By the time they did, the woman had started breathing again.

“I was a little bit shaken up,” she says, “but I was glad I was able to help.”

Herrin joins the ranks of AFT members who have become everyday heroes through their safety training, saving people from choking and seizures.

She is quick to credit the AFT trainers who helped her gain confidence. With more than 20 years of experience as a para at Sun City Elementary School in Bossier, Herrin was used to directing children—but not adults. She also credits her local union president, Jackie Lansdale, for being a role model in acting courageously.

Lansdale throws the compliment right back. “Robin has a caring attitude and is always at the ready” to help, she says. “The fact that she stepped up to save a woman’s life is just something that Robin would do. I am proud to have her in our union.”

Herrin hadn’t known anything about unions until she went to a meeting and thought, “I might like this.” Well, she sure did like it. She became a building rep at her school, helps organize PSRP conferences and has traveled to the state capital, Baton Rouge, to stand up for education. Now she’s vice president of PSRPs for Red River United.

Before her union work kicked in about five years ago, Herrin had been super active in Mardi Gras, planning balls and riding on floats. “I gave up some of those real fun things so that I could do something that was still fun but more worthwhile,” she says. “I won’t be working a lot longer before I retire in a few years, but at least I can work to leave a legacy for students. I want things to be better.”

You could say for a fact that Robin Herrin already has made things better.

[Annette Licitra, AFT]