First year nursing students save classmate’s life


Rich Zerbey, a 63-year-old DCCC nursing student went into cardiac arrest and was saved by classmates. Courtesy of Rich Zerbey


By Emily Craft

What seemed like a normal day took a turn for the worst on Oct. 6, 2016 when DCCC nursing student Rich Zerbey went into cardiac arrest without warning, despite having no symptoms beforehand.

According to the American Heart Association, “Cardiac arrest is caused when the heart’s electrical system malfunctions and in cardiac arrest, death is very likely when the heart suddenly stops working.”

While on the shuttle bus going from the parking lot to the Chester County hospital, Zerbey was having a normal conversation with DCCC nursing student Sarah Fryberger, when she noticed the glazed look in his eyes.

Soon after, he collapsed.

“Two weeks ago, I had just run three miles,” Zerbey said. “I never saw it coming.”

Fryberger knew something wasn’t right. She and the other nursing students on the bus discussed the problem and came to an agreement that they needed to get help.

After Fryberger called 911 from her cell phone, the students used what they learned in school to save Zerbey’s life.

Nursing student Jill Peterson performed CPR on Zerbey.

“I took a CPR class this past year so I knew what to do,” Peterson said.

Nursing students Taylor England and Melissa Robinson took turns performing compression on Zerbey to keep him conscious while the other women on the bus did everything they could to keep Zerbey from going under.

“They kept me warm and pink,” Zerbey said.

When the ambulance arrived, they pronounced Zerbey “pulseless and breathless,” said Elizabeth Smoker, the assistant professor for Allied Health Emergency Services and Nursing in an email. EMT’s gave Zerbey a shock with the defibrillators, and brought him back to life. Today Zerbey said he is very thankful for everything the women did for him.

Fryberger emphasized the importance of knowing CPR because it can save someone’s life in an emergency situation.

After working as a paramedic where he observed nurses in action, Zerbey became inspired to become a RN nurse himself. Due to his health, Zerbey recently had to leave the program to receive treatment.

“I am looking forward to getting back into school in the fall semester,” Zerbey said. “I am ready to finish and become a nurse.”

Contact Emily Craft at


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