School nurse recognized for life-saving efforts

Eagan resident JoAnne Geiser received the Saving a Life Award for her response to a student suffering anaphylactic shock

JoAnne Geiser, a nurse at Visitation Catholic School in Mendota Heights, received the Saving a Life Award from the Anaphylaxis and Food Allergy Association of Minnesota for her quick response to a student suffering from anaphylactic shock after ingesting peanuts, which she is allergic to. - Photo submitted

JoAnne Geiser, a nurse at Visitation Catholic School in Mendota Heights, received the Saving a Life Award from the Anaphylaxis and Food Allergy Association of Minnesota for her quick response to a student suffering from anaphylactic shock after ingesting peanuts, which she is allergic to. – Photo submitted

Visitation Catholic School nurse JoAnne Geiser is prepared for anything: bloody noses, the flu — even saving a child’s life.

Last November, the Eagan resident did just that when one of Visitation’s high school students, who is severely allergic to peanuts, went into anaphylactic shock after accidently eating a peanut butter cookie.

Geiser was alerted about the situation by a fellow employee at the Mendota Heights school and administered the girl’s Epi-Pen as required by her allergy action plan. Geiser then called 911 and the girl’s parents and tried to keep her calm until paramedics arrived.

Emergency medical technicians gave the teen additional medications and were about to leave when Geiser noticed the girl began to become pale and develop hives across her body. Due to Geiser’s observations, the student was taken to the hospital, where she made a full recovery.

“Everyone involved did a great job,” Geiser said.

Word of Geiser’s life-saving actions spread to the Anaphylaxis and Food Allergy Association of Minnesota, which presented Geiser with the Saving a Life Award on Feb. 15.

“I’m honored,” Geiser said. “It’s very rewarding when you can help someone in great need.”

Geiser was nominated by Michelle Mechtel, director of Visitation Catholic School who, in her nomination letter, described Geiser as a “unsung hero.” Mechtel detailed Geiser’s life-saving actions on that fall day.

“Under JoAnne’s watchful eye, our students stay safe,” Mechtel wrote.

Though most allergic reactions that occur at the school are mild, Geiser prepares annually to respond to severe cases. In addition to educating herself on the issue, Geiser educates the public by posting information on the school’s website on food allergies and how parents can create a safety plan if their child has severe allergies.

“Prevention and intervention are better than crisis management — the outcome is so much better,” Geiser said.

A school nurse for 17 years, Geiser has been a pioneer in school health.

Under Geiser’s leadership, Visitation became the first school in Minnesota in 2004 to carry automated external defibrillators, which are used to jump-start a person’s heart.

Geiser was also the first to train high school students to properly use the defibrillators. The school continues to be one a few to keep the AEDs in an unlocked container to enable students and employees to use them when necessary.

To date, Geiser reports the preK-12 school hasn’t had any issues with the containers being unlocked.

Prior to becoming a school nurse, the St. Catherine University graduate  cared for infants in the neonatal intensive care unit at Children’s Hospital in St. Paul.

Geiser said she has dreamed of becoming a nurse since she was a child due to her passion for caring for people.

She came to Visitation in 1996 after two of her former high school teachers encouraged her to apply for the position, which was being vacated by a retiring nurse.

Geiser agreed and quickly fell in love with her new job, which enabled her to spend more time with her young children.

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