Cindy Hoeksema: School Nurse Responds F.A.S.T. to Help Save a Life

Updated:Apr 30,2013

School nurse’s role included keeping stroke patient calm

Cindy Nurse Image

When school nurse Cindy Hoeksema was called to the cafeteria, she initially thought a student was choking.

The patient turned out to be police offer Scott Davis, who was on campus to give an anti-drugs speech. 

And Scott wasn’t choking. He was having a stroke.

“I ran back to the office and grabbed a stethoscope and a blood pressure cuff,” she said. “I took his blood pressure and it was way high – WAY high.”

Someone had already called 9-1-1. In fact, Cindy heard Scott’s police radio squawk with the news “officer down.” So she did the next most important thing – keep Scott calm. They already knew each other because in addition to Scott’s speeches at school, his two sons had attended a school where she worked.

“I said, `Scott, this is Cindy. You’re going to be fine. Don’t worry about it. We’re all here with you and 9-1-1 is on the way,’” she recalled. “I always tell people you’ve got to stay calm. The patient will think, `Maybe I’m not so bad.’ But if you freak and panic, then everyone freaks and panics and that’s not good for the person in distress.”

High blood pressure wasn’t the only cue that Scott was having a stroke. His speech was slurred and he was complaining of a headache.

“It seemed weird because he was so young, so healthy, so athletic,” Cindy said. “But I knew what was going on because I’ve seen it before. If he wasn’t already having a stroke, the chance of him stroking was high.”

The paramedics arrived quickly, as did other police officers. They secured Scott’s gun, Taser, bulletproof vest and other items, speeding up the process of getting him to the hospital.

“For a bad scenario, it went really good,” Cindy said. “It was truly, truly a team effort. Everyone knew what to do. Everything clicked into place like the cogs in the wheel.”

Things continued to fall in place at the hospital.

Scott needed a rare procedure, and the Iowa doctor most qualified to perform it happened to be at the hospital. It was still precarious; family and friends were told to expect the worst.

Months later, Scott had another stroke – then two more. He was forced into medical retirement. However, he made it back on the police force just 17 months later, one of the few times in state history that’s happened.

“It just shows how important it is to have a solid baseline of health going so that if you have a heart attack, stroke or anything else, you’re more likely to be able to bounce back,” Cindy said.

Cindy and Scott still see each other occasionally, and she laughs about them being “good Facebook buddies.” They not only share the bond forged that horrifying afternoon at the school, they also share a lifelong dedication to public service.

“Scott has a purpose, a reason for still being here,” she said. “I feel like school nursing is my mission. I’ve been doing it for 15 years now, and there’s a lot more to it than people realize. Do I get frustrated? Oh yes. But I think the kids need somebody there for them, and that means everything to me.”

Adults at the school can be awfully thankful for her presence, too.

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