Cheryl Wagnon, RN

Cobb County School District

When Cheryl Wagnon, a veteran RN with 42 years of experience, saw a child with a laundry list of special needs, she put on her detective hat to help the student, and ultimately save the child’s life.

The child arrived in the school system in a wheelchair and completely dependent for care. On top of being intellectually disabled, the student was fed by a tube and required oxygen. Other issues included the student being nonverbal with a failure to thrive, and having chronic respiratory distress, COPD and scoliosis. While attending school, the staff needed to call 911 at least twice due to the child having respiratory distress after feeding.

As the itinerant nurse, Wagnon makes assessment visits. The classroom staff told Wagnon about the student’s oxygen saturation frequently dropping below the limits. Wagnon started digging and doing research, and soon recognized the possibility of the need for a fundoplication, a surgical procedure on the stomach to prevent aspiration of stomach contents. She shared her findings with a team of specialists, and the student eventually received the procedure.

After the fundoplication, the student now receives continuous feeds at school, tolerates them very well and is gaining weight. Supplemental oxygen is no longer required. According to Wagnon, the child can be seen happy and smiling widely in the classroom setting without distress.

“I want these children to reach their potential, whatever that may be,” Wagnon said. “I can’t think of anything I’d rather do. It’s such an honor for the parents of these children who have such incredible needs to trust me with their most precious possessions, their children.”

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