Annette Lemos, a medical assistant instructor at Summit, says she often finds herself in the right place at the right time when it comes to medical emergencies.
She began her allied health career taking pre-req classes in nursing at Chaffey College in Rancho Cucamonga. But she found the process slow and wanted to get a jump-start in the medical field. She enrolled at Everest College and promptly switched to the medical assisting program. Upon graduation, Lemos worked in private practice, where her first job was at a chiropractor’s office. She then moved on to dermatology and, finally, pediatrics. All along the way, she honed her medical skills and gathered valuable information to use in her future job as an educator.
At the chiropractor’s office, she treated patients suffering from long- and short-term injuries. She learned to apply modalities such as ultrasound therapies. Depending on the type and severity of the injury, she learned the proper techniques to treat the muscular and skeletal systems.
In pediatrics, she gave injections, drew blood and took vital signs. However, her biggest takeaway was the need to have compassion for children and their parents. “I saw many sick kids suffering from all kinds of childhood ailments, like fevers, sore throats and sinus issues,” she said. Treating young kids with life-threatening illnesses was one of the hardest parts of her job. “One of our patients was a two-year-old boy who was diagnosed with leukemia,” said Lemos. “His mother had died, and his grandmother was raising him. He was so sick that he couldn’t go outside without wearing a mask.”
After many years of working in pediatrics, Lemos’s coworker suggested that she try teaching. In 2009, she transitioned to the classroom and loves it. “I enjoy teaching the students,” Lemos said. “Spending my day with them definitely outweighs being in the clinic.” Lemos finds her take-charge attitude has come in handy when it comes to assessing a medical crisis. Her quick actions have made her a real-life guardian angel to many.
Guardian Angel Story #1
“One day, I was visiting a friend and her one-year-old son. He was sitting in his high chair eating lunch,” Lemos said. “All of a sudden, my friend looked over at him and screamed because he was turning colors.” Lemos jumped up and flipped the boy over, putting his head in her hand. She then followed the protocol for administering the Heimlich maneuver on a child. “I slapped him on the back until the food dislodged,” she said. “It was then I realized he had too much food in his mouth, which obstructed his airway.” She credits her medical training for preventing a more serious situation.
Guardian Angel Story #2
“It seems like medical emergencies always happen when I am at work,” Lemos said about a prior teaching job, located across from a junior high school. One afternoon, while the kids were waiting for the bus, a few kids grabbed others by their backpacks, swinging them around and then letting go. They were laughing until one boy grabbed another’s backpack and swung him with such force that he fell into oncoming traffic. He was hit by a car, thrown into the air and landed in the middle of the street.
Lemos, her coworkers and medical assisting students rushed outside to help the boy. She took his vital signs. His breath was shallow, and he barely registered a pulse. “His limbs were mangled underneath him, and his head was split open,” Lemos said. Although they feared moving him due to his severe injuries, she knew she had to do something. “I began to stimulate his heart by putting my knuckles in the middle of his chest in a twisting motion because that is where the nerves come together,” she said. Soon the paramedics arrived and thanked her for administering assistance. Although privacy laws prohibited her from learning about the child’s condition, she was told he survived the accident and returned to school.
Guardian Angel Story #3
One day, Lemos saw a woman driving erratically toward the campus. The car slowed down and drifted into the parking lot. Lemos spied a young child in the back seat and ran to the driver’s side door. She managed to stop the car and laid the driver, who was incoherent, on the ground. Lemos noticed a fast-food meal on the passenger seat and believed the woman may be either going into diabetic shock or having a seizure. She asked the girl if the woman had any medication with her, and the girl pointed to the glove box. Inside was an emergency glucagon injection kit.
Glucagon is a hormone that increases glucose levels in the blood. Taking a risk, she administered glucagon to the woman, and she came out of the seizure. “I later learned she had had gastric bypass surgery. It is common for patients who have had this surgery to bottom out when their blood sugar is low, and that is what happened to her,” said Lemos. “Had she been able to eat her meal in time, the seizure could have been prevented,” Lemos said.
Guardian Angel Story #4
CPR is taught in all medical assisting classes at Summit College. As the CPR instructor, Lemos has indirectly saved the lives of others through her students. What was to be a fun day at the beach for one former student quickly became a nightmare. While the student watched her son swimming, she noticed he did not come up for air. She immediately jumped into the water, pulled the boy out and started to perform CPR. He survived, but the story could have had a very different ending had her student not been taught how to resuscitate him.
In addition to teaching at Summit, she is one of the college’s externship coordinators. As a coordinator, she regularly visits externship sites to ensure students are practicing skills they learned in class. She also serves as a mentor to many.
“When students come to me with concerns about being able to finish the program, I tell them not to give up,” she said. “If you have the desire, those 10 months will go by fast, and, by the end, you will be on the path to success.”