Pellissippi State students save classmate’s life

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row of 5, male and female students with security officer at end of row
Pellissippi State Community College student Eric Flynn, center, suffered a heart attack during a class in early December. He was aided by, from left, students Jordan Sugg, Alice Holt and Mary Elizabeth Sands, and security officer Doug Walston, who administered CPR and provided other emergency care until emergency medical professionals could arrive.

For Eric Flynn, the 2013 holiday season was a time to feel particularly blessed.

During an English class in early December at Pellissippi State Community College, Flynn collapsed at his desk after suffering a heart attack. Two classmates, Alice Holt and Mary Elizabeth Sands, administered CPR and emergency care until help arrived—and aided in saving Flynn’s life.

“If they hadn’t been there, I wouldn’t be here,” Flynn, a single parent, said of Holt, Sands and Doug Walston, Safety and Security supervisor at Pellissippi State. “What [they] did means the world to me, to my children and to my family.”

During a small ceremony Monday, Dec. 16, L. Anthony Wise Jr., the college’s president, recognized Holt, Sands and Walston for their actions by presenting them each with a Pellissippi State shield.

“The Pellissippi State shield symbolizes power and strength,” he said. “The gold color symbolizes wisdom. You used all of those things to take care of Eric and give him the best possible chance of success. We thank you for your great and heroic action.”

Flynn, a Business Administration/Management student, says he was making his way from the parking lot to his classroom when he began to feel tired. He remembers walking into English class but doesn’t remember collapsing.

Holt and Sands, both Nursing students, noticed Flynn slump at his desk and immediately began administering CPR.

“We were working on portfolios, heard a noise and looked up to see Eric sort of slumped over,” said Holt. “We jumped up and ran over there.”

Another student called 911, and Walston and Jordan Suggs, a lab assistant, helped the first responders find Flynn and get him on his way to the hospital.

Sands, who works at Parkwest Medical Center, where Flynn was taken, checked in on him frequently, as did Holt, Walston and others. Flynn was hospitalized for 11 days and underwent an angioplasty and stent placement, a surgical operation that opens a partially blocked artery.

“Everyone was going the extra mile. You’ve had a lot of people pulling for you, even if you didn’t know it,” Walston said.

“It’s overwhelming to know how many people care,” Flynn said.

For more information about Pellissippi State, visit or call (865) 694-6400.