The biggest compliment I can receive, when I am on the road working in my schools is this…”this school improvement work is saving lives”. I have to say, when I hear that I am reminded of the critical importance of what so many do to impact student lives. While this is how I like to think about my work and what really keeps me on the road, I want to tell you about someone who actually has taken on the daunting task of saving lives… one Epipen at a time.
Her name is Kelly Dunfield. Kelly is a Nurse Practitioner from my home province of New Brunswick, Canada. As much as I like to think about the work I do as saving lives, Kelly actually has taken the initiative to do that… every single day. So far, her initiative has saved six lives that she knows about… and there definitely may be others. I was reminded about Kelly this week when I was in an airport and had to watch a medical team support a young lady having an anaphylactic reaction. The great thing about Kelly’s project is that is truly fits the need so many of us have in our schools to provide as many opportunities to students and adults to be in a safe and healthy environment. Here is the story…
In December 2015, Kelly and her husband John established Be Ready Health Care Inc. (http://www.bereadyhealthcare.com/. This was in response to a very successful pilot program providing public epinephrine auto- injectors (Epipens as we often call them). This pilot project was launched in the spring of 2014, when 28 public sites in Sussex, New Brunswick, Canada were identified and agreed to participate. Each site received an alarmed wall cabinet that contained both, one adult and one child dose of epinephrine auto injectors. Before each site installed this cabinet, education was provided by Kelly (which is still part of the implementation) to correctly recognize and respond to an anaphylactic reaction. Within a few short months of the launch of this pilot, a life was saved and Kelly and John quickly realized the important potential that this initiative had to save more lives, and the need to promote publicly accessible epinephrine in all communities.
The cabinets are manufactured in New Brunswick, Canada and will hold up to 4 EpiPens or 1 naloxone kit or 2 naloxone nasal sprays. (They expanded the business from the epinephrine cabinets to an additional cabinet (naloxone) being available to provide a quick response to a drug overdose). Both of these cabinets create an opportunity to respond quickly to a medical emergency similar to what cardiac defibrillators do for us in public places. Be Ready Health Care provides the cabinets and you can buy the epinephrine and naloxone behind the counter (across Canada) in pharmacies without a prescription. I am not able to comment on the USA availability.
Kelly and John both have other “day jobs”. This project is a passion for them. Just speak to Kelly for a few minutes and you will realize what a special person she is. Kelly is determined to save as many lives as she can by selling the cabinets, and most importantly, educating people about the potential we all have to react immediately and appropriately to these medical emergencies and save lives. Schools, universities, restaurants, hockey rinks, businesses and other public buildings across Canada and USA (as far away as North Dakota) have seen the benefit of the cabinets.
In 1996, I was principal of Lewisville Middle School in Moncton, New Brunswick. Anyone reading this who worked with me there will know why these cabinets personally mean so much to me. We had a student who had severe allergies and we did store an Epipen in the office for her. One day, a teacher had to administer the epinephrine to the young girl and by mistake injected in her own hand instead (she had the Epipen upside down). When she came to find me at the office, the Epipen was hanging out of her hand and the student was standing there without the drug she desperately needed. Luckily the school was not too far from the hospital and we were able to get both of them there on time to recieve medical treatment. One of Kelly’s kits would have provided me with an additional epipen and obviously my staff would have benefited from Kelly’s training!
This past week, I worked in Rapid City, South Dakota with the amazing, energetic staff at North Middle School. We accomplished many things and one of the goals of our time together was to agree on collective commitments by the teachers for this school year. What would we agree to have as commitments as we shared responsibility for all students in our building? The North Middle team described their need to have high expectations of their students and at the same time build relationships and nurture them. One of the commitments that they talked about a great deal was their need to ensure that the students had a safe haven to come to each and every day… that the students would know, when they came in the door, that they were in a safe space. I so appreciated the work that the teachers did this week and most importantly their undeniable belief in their ability to save the lives of their students. It isn’t quite the same as Kelly’s cabinets but our work is right up there as critically important.
As I said earlier, Kelly knows of at least six lives that have been saved- five with the epinephrine and one from the naloxone. If you are interested in a cabinet for your school or business, I am sure Kelly would love to talk to you. Contact here through their website-www.bereadyhealthcare.com. Have a great week and celebrate the important work that you are part of as an educator, saving lives! See you next Saturday!