Bus. Stop. By Kathryn Schiliro • Photos by Angelina Bellebuono
Morgan County bus driver performs CPR, saves the life of a 9-year-old
It has been 16 or 17 years since Loretta Berryman took a cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) class.
In fact, the Morgan County bus driver remembers thinking, “I’ll never remember how to do this.”
On the grey morning of Friday, Feb. 4, in the rain, in the middle of Madison’s North Main Street, the skill returned to Loretta Berryman. Or maybe it never left.
Berryman was driving into town around 7:15 that morning. She remembers conditions outside being darker than usual. Looking out of her windshield, she questioned what was going on in the road ahead of her. A mother was scooping up a child.
Unbeknownst to Berryman, 9-year-old Morgan County Elementary School student Anaiah Rucker and her sister, 5-year-old Morgan County Primary School student Camry Harden, both residents of North Main, had been struck by a pickup truck moments earlier as they were crossing the street. Rucker had borne the brunt of the impact in an effort to shield her sister. Their mother, Andrea Taylor, watched the accident occur from the porch of their home and rushed to her children.
Berryman, a 22-year school bus driving veteran, put on her brakes, “popped” her lights, and called Joe back at the bus shop to send an ambulance. She told “her kids” – there were 55 or 60 of them – to stay on the bus.
She’d only seen Rucker and Harden a handful of times before – she’d stop and pick them up if it was rainy or cold.
Berryman remembers Taylor holding Rucker in her arms. Rucker was limp. Berryman felt Rucker’s neck, wrist, chest, just searching for signsto see if she was breathing. She found nothing.
Berryman instructed Taylor to hold the 9-year-old’s head still. She began CPR.
“I went somewhere, I don’t know where I went,” Berryman said. “It just came back… I didn’t do this. God did this.”
When Rucker’s eyes opened, when she gasped for breath and began moving, Berryman said she thanked God.
At this point, EMTs took over. Berryman, soaked through from the rain, boarded her bus. Due to the traumatic nature of what the children on the bus witnessed, school system Director of Operations Bob Monk instructed Berryman to get every child’s name in case they had questions about what they’d seen on the way to school that morning.
As Berryman took names, the children, one by one, stopped her and asked her, “Are you alright?”
“Everyone did exactly what they were supposed to do,” Berryman said. “I love every one of those children to death. I feel like every child in the county’s mine.”
Berryman made it through the rest of the day. It wasn’t until Saturday that the gravity of what happened in the rain on North Main the day before hit her. No matter what Berryman did, she was crying. Berryman said she kept thinking about what could’ve happened if she’d forgotten how to perform CPR or if she’d performed it wrong.
A telephone call later from Berryman’s 10-year-old granddaughter, Tristan, helped Berryman to understand why she was there that morning and why she didn’t fail at reviving Rucker. On the other end of the phone, a little voice told her grandmother: “Meemaw, you saved my best friend. Anaiah’s my best friend. I’m so proud of you.”
“God put me where He wanted me to be and I did His service,” Berryman said. “I’m not a hero. I’m doing what God wanted to me to do or that baby wouldn’t be alive.”
If you ever meet Berryman, she’ll be wearing a pin with a picture of her son on it. She understands the pain of losing a child – she lost her own 16-year-old in 1994.
“I didn’t want anyone else, as parents, to lose a child,” Berryman said.
The Morgan County bus shop will hold a barbecue fund-raiser for Anaiah Rucker on March 19, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Morgan County High School cafeteria. Cost is $8 per plate, which includes half a chicken. For more information or to make a donation, contact Debbie Shadix at (706) 342-2278, Judy Thomas at (706) 752-1842 or Annie McClelland at (706) 342-2035.
As of last week, more than 1,000 tickets were sold for the event.
Get CPR certified
According to Morgan County Fire Chief Jason Farmer, getting CPR certified begins with contacting one of three organizations which can connect interested individuals with the closest CPR class. Farmer also explained that for local non-profit groups, there are opportunities for the fire department to provide training, which he said is offered based on convenience and availability.
For businesses or individuals, Farmer recommends going through one of the following three groups' websites, all of which offer a way to research access to CPR and other first aid training.
American Heart Association
American Red Cross
American Health and Safety Institute
—By Angelina Bellebuono
Bus shop barbecue
The Morgan County School System’s Transportation Department will hold a barbecue to raise funds to benefit Anaiah Rucker. The event will take place March 19 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Morgan County High School cafeteria.
Half-chicken plates are $8 a piece and will be served with baked beans, coleslaw, bread, dessert and a drink.
Contact Debbie Shadix at (706) 342-2278, Judy Thomas at (706) 752-1842 or Annie McClelland at (706) 342-2035 for more information.
Printed in the March 3, 2011 edition.