JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. - It's pretty common for a teacher to give a student extra credit, but an East Tennessee State University College of Pharmacy professor is giving credit to one of his students for saving his life.
College of Pharmacy professor Dr. Charles Collins met with one of his former students, Kristin Lester, on May 7. It was no big deal, really, until you consider the reason behind the reunion -- their fateful moment in time began when they both just happened to be leaving the NASCAR race at Bristol Motor Speedway in March.
"My son told me I was walking in front of the group," Collins said. "Suddenly I stopped, and he looked at me. I said something like, 'Help me', and then fell to the ground." He was having a massive heart attack.
Kristin Lester, a former student of Collins', was nearby in the crowd and heard the commotion. "We got a little bit closer and I heard a woman say, 'He's turning blue, he's not breathing,'" Lester said. "That's when I knew there was nobody else [that could help], it was going to be me that day."
Kristin performed CPR on Dr. Collins until EMS crews arrived, not even realizing at the time who it was she was helping. She found out it was her former professor the next day at school. "In retrospect, obviously it was Dr. Collins," Lester said. "How did I not know? I guess at the time I was just so focused on what needed to be done."
Collins made it to the hospital in time and underwent heart bypass surgery. He gives Kristin credit for saving his life. "She saved my life, prevented damage to essential tissues," he said. "Yes, that's good stuff."
He's obviously thankful for the good stuff that the Gatton College of Pharmacy requires its students to know -- emergency medical training. "If incoming students ask, 'Why do we have to do this?' Then I can stand up in front of them and say, 'I'm why you have to do this,'" Collins said.
"They empower their students to say, 'It's me,'" Lester added. "'I have the ability and it's going to be me today.'"
Collins is recovering nicely from heart surgery and continues his rehab. He tells us he expects to return to work very soon.