Distance learning teacher saves grandma having stroke

Muskegon County

MUSKEGON HEIGHTS, Mich. (WOOD) — A Muskegon Heights elementary school teacher is being recognized for her efforts that may have saved the life of one of her students’ grandmothers.

Julia Koch, a first-grade teacher at Edgewood Elementary School, was working with students on Sept. 22 when she learned one of them was having technical struggles with the district’s distance-learning equipment.

“Her student’s device was not charging,” Koch told News 8.

Koch made contact with the grandmother of the student setting into motion a chain of events that may have saved her life.

“When she started speaking, I could tell that there was something wrong. I wasn’t sure what was wrong, but there was something wrong,” Koch said.

It turns out that Cynthia Phillips was having a stroke and was in desperate need of emergency help. Koch summoned administrators who called 911.

“I need someone at that residence ASAP, please,” a school staffer told the 911 operator.

Medics rushed Phillips to the hospital for treatment. Monday, she remained under medical care but was making progress toward recovery. She told News 8 she was recently able to stand on her own but said the road to recovery would be long.

“Thank you for saving my life,” Phillips said of the school staff members. “If it wasn’t for them getting me the help, I needed I would’ve just not been here.”

Muskegon Heights Fire Chief Chris Dean said there is no doubt the teacher’s actions made a critical difference.

“I think that this teacher’s actions very well could have saved the woman’s life but at the least improved the quality of the rest of her life,” Dean said.

Edgewood Principal Charlie Lovelady said the incident highlights a silver lining in the district’s difficult decision to utilize virtual learning to protect students and staff from COVID-19.

“We are forced to interact with our families,” Lovelady said. “We all are growing with this process because it’s new to everyone.”

Koch said she was happy she was able to be there when her student needed her most.

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