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.”

AED In Schools Are Failsafe For Sudden Cardiac Arrest

Death on a Playground: Anthony’s StoryBy Dr. Robert TozziPublished June 24, 2011

One ordinary day on a playground, a 12-year-old boy announces to his friends, “I have no pulse.” He then collapses to the ground in an apparent full cardiac arrest. More than a decade ago, this tragic scenario played out for real. Anthony Cole’s heart had stopped beating, and he was considered clinically dead. The boy was airlifted to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. On the way, he had 13 electrical shocks applied to his chest in a desperate attempt to revive him. Miraculously, his heart was shocked back into its beating state; but by that time, severe, irreversible brain damage had occurred. This preventable and treatable cardiac arrest left Anthony in a coma for more than a year. Once he was out of the coma, he was left with severe handicaps that would require a lifetime of special care. The cardiac condition that caused this tragedy is called Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome (WPW). Simply described, the syndrome involves an extra piece of muscle woven into the overall mass of heart tissue that creates an electrical short circuit. In some individuals, this condition is benign – in others it can lead to palpitations or tachycardia – but, in a few, as in Anthony’s case, it can be deadly, leading to sudden and unexpected full cardiac arrest. In the most recent large-scale school screenings, this condition has been identified in up to one child per 100-1,000. The good news is that WPW is now 100 percent curable. A simple procedure, called an ablation, is used to remove the excess heart muscle, which removes all future risk of sudden death. But how can you detect a disease that may have no symptoms, even right up to last second, just before the onset of cardiac arrest? A simple EKG can make the diagnosis. Anthony’s parents have chronicled his story in their book “Resurrecting Anthony.” I had the pleasure to meet with this heroic couple during an interview on FoxNews.com Live. The following is an excerpt from an e-mail that Anthony’s mother, Linda Cole, sent me after the show: “Dear Dr. Tozzi,It was such a pleasure meeting you and your wife on Tuesday at Fox. I am quite excited that you are pursuing cardiac screening for children. This would save many families much needless heartache. I also believe that it would save Medicaid dollars in the long run. If nothing else, I hope that parents can at least be educated and given the option of paying for an EKG…” Anthony’s mom is right. This tragedy could have been avoided in two ways: 1. Required early cardiac screening for children.2. Rapidly available automated external cardiac defibrillator units at all schools, playgrounds, athletic fields and public places in general. The alternatives are starkly defined. By using established EKG technology, which costs about $40 per patient, physicians can diagnose and cure virtually all detected incidences of the bad form of WPW in young children, who will go on to lead normal, productive lives.  Tragedies like Anthony’s, which can result in subsidized health care costs mounting into the hundreds of thousands over a lifetime, can become, literally, a thing of the past. Dr. Robert J. Tozzi is the chief of pediatric cardiology and founder of the Pediatric Center for Heart Disease at Hackensack University Medical Center in Hackensack, New Jersey. He is also the director of the Gregory M. Hirsch Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Center and a Fox News contributor.