Holley district recognizes student for life-saving actions

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 17 June 2024 at 10:12 pm

Leigha Walker, ‘our angel,’ praised for doing compressions on man who had heart attack

Photos by Tom Rivers: Holley school district leaders present “Soaring to New Heights” awards to Leigha Walker, a Holley senior, and teacher Renee Wolf. From left include district superintendent Brian Bartalo and Board of Education President Anne Winkley. Walker performed compressions on a man who went into cardiac arrest and crashed into a pole outside the Brockport Subway where she works. Walker received training in CPR at Holley in a class taught by Wolf.

HOLLEY – The school district this evening presented a “Soaring to New Heights” award to Leigha Walker, a Holley senior who rendered aid to a man who had a heart attack.

The district also recognized Renee Wolf, teacher of the class where students learn CPR, the Heimlich maneuver and first aid.

The wife and two sisters of Jack Brennan also attended the Board of Education meeting in Holley to show their appreciation for Leigha and her teacher. Brennan, 67, of Brockport is the man who had a heart attack and became unconscious on June 9. He crashed into a pole outside the Brockport Subway where Leigha was working.

She heard the crash and immediately called 911 at about 10 a.m. Leigha grabbed a wooden rod so a bystander could break the passenger window of Brennan’s pickup truck and then unlock the vehicle.

Leigha and co-worker got Brennan out of the truck and onto the ground. Leigha checked his vital signs. When the Brockport Fire District ambulance pulled up, a medic urged someone to start CPR.

Leigha did more than 30 compressions to keep Brennan’s blood moving. Then the Brockport ambulance personnel used an AED to get Brennan’s heart restarted. He was then transported by ambulance to a hospital.

It was an intense 12 minutes or so. Then Leigha went back to work for four more hours.

“Leigha is our angel,” said Kathy Conner, one of Brennan’s sisters.

Leigha Walker is joined by the family of Jack Brennan, a man she provided aid to on June 9. From left include Brennan’s wife Caroline Rodriguez, and Brennan’s sisters Maureen Close and Kathy Conner. They attended an award presentation for Walker at the Board of Education meeting this evening.

Brennan is now in stable condition and will have open-heart bypass surgery tomorrow.

His wife, Caroline Rodriguez, said Brennan is very fit. He works out, runs regularly, and stays busy in retirement, sealing driveways and painting. For the past 25 years he has been a softball umpire in Section 5, and has done games where Leigha was the catcher for Holley, with Brennan only a few inches behind her, calling balls and strikes. He also is a volleyball referee.

Brennan has run many marathons. He had already knocked out a 1 ½-mile run the morning of June 9 before he was stricken with a heart attack.

Rodriguez said Leigha’s actions and those of other bystanders saved precious minutes for the medics who arrived later.

“They got him out of the truck, set up and she started CPR,” Rodriguez said. “Those were critical moments when every second counts.”

Leigha has been featured in the media in the past week, including the Orleans Hub, Rochester television stations and has been widely praised on social media.

She prefers to keep a low-profile, said Brian Bartalo, the district superintendent.

“Leigha is a very humble and kind person,” Bartalo said this evening, in presenting her with an award from the district. “I know she doesn’t want this type of attention.”

Provided photo: Leigha Walker is the catcher for Holley’s varsity softball game. In this photo Jack Brennan is the umpire.

The district also presented an award to Renee Wolf, teacher of the Sports, Safety and Fitness class where students learn CPR and other first aid.

Leigha was one of 15 Holley students to take the class last year and become certified in CPR.

Wolf learned CPR when she was 15. But she has never needed to use it. Wolf is also Leigha’s soccer coach on a team that won Sectionals and advanced to the state tournament.

“Leigha is a great young woman,” Wolf said. “I’m super proud of her. She doesn’t want the attention. She just thinks it’s something anybody would do.”

Bartalo said the elective class led by Wolf will stay in Holley, “so more kids can help their community.”