Health Program Specialist calmly, quickly renders aid to unconscious woman

A California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) employee put her training to lifesaving use when she assisted a stranger in distress on the side of the road who turned out to be a fellow corrections employee.

Health Specialist I April Wagnon helped a woman in need while on her way to work at CCWF in February.

Health Specialist I April Wagnon helped a woman in need while on her way to work at CCWF in February.

On Feb. 26, April Wagnon, a Health Program Specialist I and 24-year CDCR veteran, was on her way to work at Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF) when she saw someone standing in the middle of the road, waving his arms frantically at every car passing by and yelling for help. Wagnon slowed down and approached the man, who explained that his passenger was unconscious in the vehicle.

At the same time, Penny Guillory, a U.S. Postal Service employee, had also pulled over, and she began performing chest compressions on the woman while Wagnon called 911. She calmly informed the dispatcher of their location and that a woman was being given CPR because she was unresponsive and not breathing. Wagnon also calmed the driver, who was understandably distraught. Wagnon stopped him from walking around, fearing he would be struck by traffic.

Wagnon took over for Guillory and began performing chest compressions. CAL FIRE arrived along with paramedics, a Madera County fire crew and responders from the CCWF fire crew, including CCWF Captain Lynne Rodriguez. The CAL FIRE responder had a defibrillator, and he and Wagnon worked quickly to get the pads on the woman, at the same time continuing chest compressions until the defibrillator could be used.

Firefighters and paramedics took over the woman’s medical care while Wagnon walked the man to her car so he could sit with her while medical personnel did their job. It was then the man told Wagnon that the woman was also a CDCR employee, who worked at neighboring VSP.

A fire captain came over and told them the lady was breathing and would be transported to the hospital.

“The lady from the Post Office came up to me and asked if we were OK, I told her yes, and we hugged and said ‘good job’ to each other and she left – I didn’t get her name,” Wagnon said.

After reaching out to the U.S. Postal Service, it was discovered that Wagnon’s fellow Good Samaritan was Guillory, a City Carrier Assistant at the Merced Post Office.

Concerned about the driver being able to make it to the hospital safely, Wagnon elected to wait with him until he was calm enough to drive himself, and he left for the hospital while Wagnon continued on her way to work.

Rodriguez shared that the woman is alive in no small part due to the fast and calm response of Wagnon and Guillory.

“Without the quick action of Ms. Wagnon, the employee would have passed away at the scene,” she said. “Miss Wagnon is to be commended for her actions and compassion.”

Wagnon first reported to the Richard A. McGee Correctional Training Center in July 1990 as a cadet. After graduating the academy, she was part of the activation team at CCWF, which opened in 1990. During her time as a Correctional Officer, Wagnon was involved with CCWF’s Honor Guard and worked various assignments throughout the institution, including Transportation and Administrative Segregation/Security Housing Unit.

In 2006, she started work as a Health Program Specialist I. Her current duties include being a subject-matter expert in the Inmate Medical Services Program (ISMP), ISMP-related data applications, performance trends and local activities to ensure departmental compliance with all court orders, laws, rules, regulations, policies and procedures governing the medical program. She is part of the Quality Management Support Unit and has acted as the Standards Compliance Coordinator for the Skilled Nursing Facility. Wagnon has also been involved in the Peer Support Program and was an Equal Opportunity Employment counselor.