Questions raised after four students fall ill in Stewart Hall

Air quality became a concern in Stewart Hall in the early afternoon, Oct. 27, causing classes to be canceled and the building to be evacuated at Waynesburg University.

After four students became ill during a demonstration in the simulation lab on the first floor of the building, Director of Public Safety Michael Humiston said a fire alarm was pulled to clear the building to allow the fire department to perform an “air quality check.” According to Humiston, the tests came back negative and the building was reopened later that day.

Stacey Brodak, vice president for Institutional Advancement and University Relations, said in an email the investigation to what caused the students to fall ill is ongoing.

“At Waynesburg University, our foremost concern will always be the health and safety of our students, faculty, staff, friends and community,” Brodak said. “When we learn of any potential issue that could have an adverse impact, we have a responsibility to investigate it fully until we are satisfied that we have eliminated the risk to the best of our ability based on the facts that we have available to us. In the case of the students that became ill during nursing instruction on Friday, Oct. 27, our investigation is continuing as we gather and analyze all the
available information.”

One of the students taken to Student Health Services Friday was sophomore nursing major Morgan Gamble.

“We were all in the same sim lab room talking about our procedure and then all of a sudden our instructor asked one of the kids if he was OK,” Gamble said. “He turned super pale and he was like just staring off, like he lost vision.”

Gamble said that while her instructor started to tend to the first student, the girl standing next to Gamble started to portray similar symptoms.

“I looked [at the girl next to me] and she was all pale and like going in and out of consciousness – then she ended up passing out and I caught her,” Gamble said. “We put her in the chair and I was holding on to her and my instructor came running in because [we] were calling for help.”

At that point, Gamble said the half-dozen students who were in the room were ordered to leave the sim lab and the unconscious student was put onto the bed in the room. Gamble said the student who had lost consciousness started to regain her senses after roughly two minutes and at that point was brought to a different room on the floor.

Gamble sat with her and a few other students who did not want to leave her side and that was when Gamble herself began to feel dizzy.

“We were sitting there and everyone told me that I started to look really pale and I was like, ‘I feel fine,’” Gamble said. “Then everyone left and it was just me [and the student who lost consciousness] and I started getting really dizzy so I put my head down on the desk.”

Gamble said she experienced the same occurrence the other students had gone through but did not lose total consciousness.

According to Gamble, there was a fourth student who went through a similar experience in the sim lab earlier that morning and was in and out of Student Health Services before she had arrived.

Neither Brodak nor Student Health Services were able to comment on the health of the other students involved.

While the investigation is still ongoing, Brodak said the university hasn’t found anything out of the ordinary yet. Brodak expects the sim lab to be “open for classes soon.”

“We have conducted air sample data logging to test for environmental issues with both internal and external specialists,” Brodak said. “At this time, the testing results have not found any constituents outside of normal range. We will continue our investigation.”