June 2 was no ordinary day in teacher Stephen Cook’s IB Studies math class at Myers Park High School.
A little past noon, one of the girls in the class was stricken with a seizure, causing most of the other students in the room to panic.
The girl lost consciousness and slumped over on a friend sitting next to her at the back of the class.
Fortunately, Scouts Matthew Joyner and Will Schriefer, both 17, were also in the classroom that day.
Joyner, who received his Eagle Scout rank in 2013 from Troop 3 at Myers Park Methodist Church, and Schriefer, who is working on his Eagle rank at Troop 79 at Carmel Presbyterian Church, sprang into action.
“Will and I saw right away that she was convulsing, and we ran to the back of the room,” Joyner said. “I knew immediately she was having a seizure.”
As stunned classmates looked on, “We got the desks and books out of the way and laid her on the floor,” Schriefer said.
As their teacher cleared the students from the room, he called 911, then the school front office for help.
By this time, Joyner and his fellow Scout had taken control of the situation. “It’s a combination of being prepared to act (in any given situation) and knowing what to do,” Joyner said.
Schriefer said, “You have to be willing to take the initiative and just jump into it.”
Joyner had prior experience with this type of medical emergency. As a sophomore on the MPHS wrestling team, he assisted the athletic trainer with a teammate who had a seizure during practice.
In the classroom, Joyner held the student’s head steady and to the side so she could breathe, keeping his fingers away from her clenched teeth.
Schriefer and his twin sister, Margaret, held her shoulders and feet steady.
The rescue was over in about four minutes. By then, assistant principal Allyson Davis and the school nurse had arrived.
EMTs brought a stretcher, but after they read the student’s vital signs she was permitted to go home with her mother.
Courtenay Miller, Joyner’s Scoutmaster at Troop 3, said the action Joyner and Scriefer took is expected of Scouts.
“We teach Scouts to be prepared,” he said. “Matthew saw the incident, assessed the situation and was properly trained and confident. He was willing to risk getting involved to help his classmate instead of just being a spectator.”
“We teach them to be leaders,” Miller said. “We give them the confidence to step up and take charge to help others.”
“It’s all a process,” Schriefer said of his Scout training. “You’ve been taught how to react in an emergency.”
“The main thing is to remain calm,” Joyner said.
Cook said in a letter he wrote to the Scouts about Joyner’s involvement in the incident: “I have been a teacher for 15 years and it is beyond a doubt the single bravest thing I have ever witnessed. Matthew never wavered and possibly saved the student’s life.”
Nancy Thomason is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Nancy? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.