FHN Nurse Connie Robertson Assists in Correctly Diagnosing Student

Posted on 12/06/2017
FHN Nurse Connie Robertson Assists in Correctly Diagnosing Student

It’s not every day that a school nurse can help assist in correctly diagnosing a student with a serious medical condition. An average day consists of administering medications, updating immunization records, providing first aid services, and evaluating health needs. But as FHN school nurse Connie Robertson began assessing Elizabeth Stallings during a suspected asthma attack on the first day of the 2016-17 school year, it became clear that something more was happening.

“Elizabeth got to school and started feeling really sweaty and out of breath, with her heart racing,” said Hyman Stallings, her father. “We had never experienced this before, other than when she was doing activities.” Previously Elizabeth had been diagnosed with sports-related asthma after visiting multiple asthma and heart doctors.

The oxygen levels in Elizabeth’s blood were normal, her respiratory functions were not labored, and there was no audible wheezing – all signs of an asthma attack. “She was perspiring profusely and very pale,” said Robertson. “I could not obtain her blood pressure and her pulse rate was extremely fast.” Robertson urged Stallings to take his daughter to the hospital and expressed her concern that the matter could be something far more serious than asthma.

After receiving emergency transportation and an extensive examination at the hospital, it was determined she suffered from arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC), a condition in which healthy tissues in the heart are replaced with scar tissue. ARVC is most commonly seen in the elderly, and not in teenagers. “To put it pretty bluntly, Connie did what three doctors couldn’t,” said Hyman. “She correctly diagnosed my daughter, which I feel saved her life.”

Since then, Elizabeth has received a heart transplant and is recuperating. She is showing no signs of rejection and has experienced only minor bumps on the long road to recovery. Despite her challenges, she still ranked eighteenth in her class at the end of last school year.

“I couldn’t ask for a better experience - considering how bad of an experience it’s been overall - with the school, administration, guidance office, and working through all of these issues,” said Hyman. Robertson reached out to the physician’s assistants to see what could be done at school during her stay in the hospital, and would often text Elizabeth’s parents to see if she would need her backpack or just to check in.

Since then, Stallings has been working on making sure Robertson’s work doesn’t go unnoticed. He’s been in the process of nominating her for St. Louis Magazine’s Nurse of the Year and will also nominate her for FHSD’s Howell of Fame in February.

Robertson is grateful for the appreciation that the Stallings family has shown her. She humbly views her service as her responsibility to all of the students in her school. “All in all, I was only doing my job and implementing years of training as any of the nurses in the District would have done and do. I feel that I can speak for all of us in that we want the parents and students to feel that each day we want to do our best.”

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