College defends collapse response

Augusta Technical College president Terry Elam said Monday he had determined from student interviews that there was no delayed response to a teacher who collapsed in class six weeks ago.

 

Mr. Elam spoke with students Monday who witnessed the collapse of GED teacher Paul Whitehead on Oct. 6 in an off-campus class in the Bon Air Hotel. He said several students told him that Mr. Whitehead had been late for the 10 a.m. class that day and that they immediately called for medical help when he began having seizures.

"Another student verifies he came to class 15 minutes late, and he was still standing," Mr. Elam said, adding that it appears Mr. Whitehead collapsed about 10:20 a.m.

Mr. Whitehead's wife, Nancy Whitehead of Martinez, said last week that she had heard there might have been a delay of more than 20 minutes between her husband's collapse and his treatment. Mr. Whitehead has been in a coma since.

The first call registered with 911 was at 10:24 a.m., yet a Gold Cross EMS report said "staff state he (Mr. Whitehead) was seizing for like 25 minutes before EMS (was) called." Gold Cross records showed it received a call at 10:25 a.m. and arrived in four minutes.

Students had told Augusta Tech officials that Mr. Whitehead collapsed at the start of the class, but campus officials didn't know then whether the class had started on time.

Mr. Elam said he's not sure why the Gold Cross report references a 25-minute delay. He also has said that Mr. Whitehead was the only Augusta Tech teacher there and that six "instructors" mentioned in the Gold Cross report were actually Bon Air officials.

Last week, Mr. Elam said students said they had to call 911 more than once. On Monday, Mr. Elam said students said they had advised EMS to enter a back door closer to Mr. Whitehead's room but that EMS entered the front of the building.

Mr. Elam said Augusta Tech will remind students at the college's 25 off-campus locations to notify the school soon after calling 911.

In Mr. Whitehead's case, he said, students acted properly in immediately notifying 911, but Augusta Tech officials didn't learn of the incident until a Bon Air worker called some time later.

Reach Preston Sparks at (706) 828-3851 or preston.sparks@augustachronicle.com.

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