After near-death experience, New Kent student on road to recovery

New Kent Public Schools bus driver Tansle Ferrell (left) poses with 16-year-old high school student Janna Apple (center) and Corporal N. Heath Jenkins (right). Ferrell and Jenkins performed CPR on Apple on Dec. 3 when she collapsed on Ferrell's bus. Amy Jo Martin photo

When 15-year-old Janna Apple asked her mother in the summer of 2013 to make sure Tansle Ferrell would be her bus driver again that year, she had no idea that choice would save her life.

"Janna and Mrs. Ferrell have a very special relationship and she is so well respected by all her students," said Janna's mother, Roberta Apple.

A six-year veteran bus driver with New Kent County, Ferrell has spent the last three years driving the route that included the Apple's home off Quaker Road in Quinton. Since starting the route, she struck up camaraderie with Janna Apple, now 16.

That bond would become even stronger after Janna Apple collapsed on her bus on the afternoon of Dec. 3.

"At 2:31 p.m., Janna was the third or fourth student to get on the bus," Ferrel said in an interview Sunday. "She went to her seat and put her book bag down. She always sits up front to tell me what has happened all day."

"She took a few steps toward the front of the bus and then ran up the aisle toward me and collapsed."

At first, Ferrell wasn't sure what had happened. She thought maybe Janna had tripped and fallen, and stayed on the floor because she was embarrassed.

"I called for help first and then I called for a medic when I realized it was more serious than just falling," Ferrell said.

School Resource Officer Corporal N. Heath Jenkins, who was monitoring traffic on Egypt Road (near the high school), heard Ferrell's first call reporting that a student had fallen on the bus.

Jenkins headed to the high school, not knowing which bus had the injured student. He quickly found bus number 46, and was there to help Ferrell within minutes.

"I didn't expect to see what I initially saw," Jenkins said.

When Jenkins and Ferrell moved Janna Apple on her side, they realized she wasn't breathing. They laid her on her back, pulled her to the front of the stairwell, where there was more room, and after an initial assessment, started administering CPR.

Within less than a minute of Ferrell's call, New Kent Schools Transportation Director Stephen King was on scene, redirecting traffic and getting an extra bus to pick up Ferrell's other students.

Emergency personnel, including the New Kent Sheriff's Office, Virginia State Police, and New Kent Fire & Rescue also rushed to the scene and worked with Jenkins and Ferrell.

Jenkins and Lt. Joey McLaughlin, III carried the student off of the bus and administered the Automated External Defibrillator (AED) system to her heart.

Jenkins and Ferrell did not stop decompressions on Janna Apple's chest until the medical team was ready to take her in a helicopter to VCU Medical Center.

Sometime during the afternoon, Roberta Apple got a call that her daughter wasn't breathing.

Roberta, a nurse at the Veteran's Hospital, was concerned but not sure if her daughter had tripped and gotten winded or if it was something more serious.

When she was told that Janna Apple was headed to VCU, she knew that something was terribly wrong. Roberta Apple headed to the school and beat the flight crew.

Although watching the helicopter transport her daughter was terrifying for Roberta Apple, Jenkins said that he knew that there was hope of saving Janna Apple's life.