Jonathan Gedalia: At some point about half an hour into practice, there was a sophomore basketball player who collapsed on the court. The coach came running into our clinic grabbing his chest, saying that the student athlete was unconscious on the floor.
Anna Harleen: That’s Jonathan Gedalia, a teacher at Valencia High School’s Medical Science Academy. We sat down with Jonathan to hear the story of how his students saved the life of their classmates, who suffered sudden cardiac arrest. However, before diving into that story, we’re first going to take a step back and look at the unique way that Valencia High prepares its students to take action. And in this case, save a life. Here’s Johnathan.
Jonathan Gedalia: I teach the emergency medicine pathway in the Medical Science Academy at Valencia high School. I’m finishing up my third year teaching there. I’ve been in EMS as an EMT for nine plus years. I still work on the ambulance part-time. I’m also a certified athletic trainer for the past three years. I do all of our Academy’s certification training in CPR, first aid, etc.
Anna Harleen: The medical science Academy offers different tracks for students, such as sports medicine, or emergency medicine based on their interests.
Jonathan Gedalia: The Medical Science Academy is a four-year academic technical education program. Students actually need to apply to be in our program. They start as freshmen and then freshmen and sophomore year, they take general medical classes. Freshman year they take a patient care class, and then sophomore year they take a body systems and disorders class. From there, they can choose two separate pathways. Going into junior year, they can choose to specialize so to speak in sports medicine or emergency medicine with myself.
Anna Harleen: As part of their education, every student is trained in hands-only CPR and eventually certified in basic life support.
Jonathan Gedalia: In the Academy, every student gets trained when they start freshman year with hands only CPR. They don’t get an actual certificate, but they get a good introduction to CPR. They learn how to do chest compressions, learn how to use AEDs, look for the signs and symptoms of cardiac arrest. Sophomore year is when we actually start the certification process. So we’ll certify them healthcare level CPR, basic life support. They get that full training their sophomore year. Then we recertify them again senior year to give our seniors at least one year post high school of certification when they’re looking for a job or just to be certified.
Anna Harleen: Valencia high school is big, home to over 3000 students. And the popular medical science Academy has over 200 enrollees. That’s hundreds of people learning lifesaving skills like CPR and how to use an AED every year. Some of these students put their training to the test even before they graduate.
Jonathan Gedalia: So it was September of 2013, actually. The boy’s basketball team was practicing in a gymnasium, which is just right across the hallway from our athletic training clinic. At some point about half an hour into practice, there was a sophomore basketball player who collapsed on the court. The coach came running into our clinic grabbing his chest, saying that the student athlete was unconscious on the floor.
Anna Harleen: In the athletic training clinic there were Medical Science Academy students who immediately jumped into action when they heard what was happening.
Jonathan Gedalia: We had three students, without hesitation, immediately grab our AED emergency bag. They went over to the gym and they assessed him. They said, “Hey, there’s no pulse.” All three of them began the measures for CPR. So one started chest compressions. One was getting the AED ready. And the third was starting on rescue breathing.
Anna Harleen: Student responders then used the AED to provide a lifesaving shock to their collapsed classmate. By providing treatment within minutes, they were able to save his life.
Jonathan Gedalia: It was probably like a minute by the time our students got there. And then when I pulled the data, it was like 45 seconds by the time the shock was administered. They shocked the patient one time, and it was a great outcome. The student athlete was semi-conscious by the time EMS arrived. EMS didn’t actually believe that he was in cardiac arrest. And we had to tell them “No, the AED shocked him.”
Anna Harleen: Preparation, not luck, is what saves victims of sudden cardiac arrest. Thinking about this emergency, there are several questions that come to mind: What went, right? What can we learn from this story of survival? How was Valencia High prepared to save the student’s life? Jonathan shares his thoughts on these questions.
Jonathan Gedalia: First, we had to have the AED and it had to be accessible to use. Second is that we had to have not only students, but adults as well, that know how to act. We know how to use the AED, know how to go through the steps of CPR. CPR is one of those things that we’ll review at least once a semester, even though certifications last two years. We’ll review it at least once a semester, if not more. And we’re fortunate because we do have a large number of students on our campus. So they’re kind of spread out and they know what to do and how to act. Then the third is having a good emergency action plan so that coaching staff or administration or teachers know what to do. “Hey, if this happens, these are the people we need to call right away.” So there’s no hesitation.
Anna Harleen: Valencia High School also has a culture of preparedness that empowers students and staff to take action. And in this case, save lives.
Jonathan Gedalia: I have to give credit to my colleague, Joe Monteleone, who’s the director of our Medical Science Academy because he really stresses preparedness. So we’re constantly training, not only CPR, but other scenarios. So it’s just this culture of “Hey, we have to be prepared for anything that might happen.”
Anna Harleen: While Valencia High is unique with its Medical Science Academy, Jonathan describes three key steps for saving a life that all schools can learn from. First, have AEDs on campus that are easily accessible in the event of an emergency. Second, have personnel on campus trained in CPR and the use of an AED. And finally, third, develop an emergency action plan so that people can respond immediately in the event that someone suffers sudden cardiac arrest on campus.