If You Don’t Think Sudden Cardiac Arrest Can Happen To You…

Hermitage student saved by school staff, AEDBy Luz Lazo Published: June 11, 2011

Kathryn Hardy had just entered Hermitage High School on Tuesday morning when she collapsed. Her heart stopped beating. She was facedown in the stairway of the school’s gymnasium, her book bag still on her back, when physical education teacher Nancy M. Steiner arrived, responding to students’ calls for help. Steiner called for help through her two-way radio. In seconds, nurses Sandra M. Ruder and Catherine T. Brawley were assisting Hardy, who was revived with the help of an automated external defibrillator. The 19-year-old Henrico County junior, with no history of heart disease, had suffered a cardiac arrest at about 8:40 a.m. as students were heading to their first-period classes. Friday afternoon — a day after doctors at Bon Secours St. Mary’s Hospital installed a pacemaker on her chest that will help her control an abnormal heart rhythm — Hardy returned to Hermitage to surprise and thank the people she said saved her life. She was smiling, energetic and looking as healthy as if nothing had happened to her just three days earlier. “Did you save me? I can’t remember who saved me,” she told Ruder as she entered the school clinic in surprise. “I think it’s the man upstairs,” the nurse responded and hugged her. “I’ll tell you one thing. I never ever want to see this happen to you again!” Hardy’s father, Antonio Hardy, said his daughter is alive today thanks to the people at the school who did the right thing, including grabbing an AED and using it properly. “I don’t think there is a word in any language to express how grateful I am,” Hardy said. “I am grateful to everybody that was involved in saving her life.” “The students that were involved, the staff that was involved, the police officer that was involved went above and beyond what they were supposed to do,” he said. As Ruder and Brawley arrived in the gym, they thought Hardy had fainted or had suffered a seizure, more common among teenagers, they said. But an application of ammonia didn’t help Hardy regain consciousness and her skin turned blue, the nurses said. “At that point we knew the situation was a little bit deeper than just fainting or maybe even a seizure,” Ruder said. “Ms. Brawley and I figured she wasn’t breathing. … We could not feel her pulse whatsoever and we started CPR.” Steiner ran to get an AED that was in the gym while Ruder, Brawley, and senior police officer Glenn “Chip” Holder tried to resuscitate Hardy. They then applied the device and it determined that a shock was needed. After a second shock, Hardy’s pulse resumed and she was breathing. It took approximately 10 minutes from the moment Hardy collapsed to when she was resuscitated, school officials said. Though AEDs are not required, there is at least one at every Henrico school, district spokesman Mychael Dickerson said. The devices cost roughly $1,000 and lead users through the steps needed so they can be used with little or no training. At a school where the two nurses stay busy treating sports injuries or minor health problems, as well as keeping an eye on students with more significant health concerns, a student suffering cardiac arrest was unexpected. “It is uncommon for a child to have cardiac arrest,” Ruder said. “Kids do have seizures. We have kids that have diabetes that pass out. … But this is the biggest thing that has ever happened to all of us.” The closest to something similar was two years ago when a parent suffered heart failure outside the school and died, Principal Omega W. Wilson said Thursday afternoon as she recalled Tuesday’s scene at the gym. So many things could have gone wrong, but everything happened in perfect timing and it was a true team effort, said a teary Wilson who, with Associate Principal Diane R. Saunders, was also at the scene Tuesday. “They were the ones that brought her back to life,” Wilson said of her staff and Holder. “These are my heroes because they are humble and they saved a life. They saved the life of a child.”