- Associated Press - Sunday, October 15, 2017

NEWARK, Del. (AP) - It came out of nowhere.

One second, 15-year-old Jaden Gray was sitting on a lab stool in Stephen Pearson’s physical science room at Hodgson Vocational Technical High School in Newark.

The next, he was on the ground, totally unresponsive.

School nurses Pamela Diksa and Tracy McMullen raced to the classroom and when they discovered Gray had stopped breathing, launched into cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR. School resource officer and detective Kevin Szymanski hovered nearby to help with chest compressions.

Using one of the school’s four automated external defibrillators, or AEDs, they attached two sticky pads with electrodes to the freshman’s chest.

“Shock advised,” the machine called out.

They moved away from Gray’s inert body and waited for the machine to deliver the jolt of electricity.

Jaden?” they asked, hoping for a response.

When someone experiences cardiac arrest, their heart can go into a kind of quivering limbo called fibrillation, according to the American Heart Association. One of the most effective ways to get it going again is with a sudden powerful electric shock like the one administered by an AED.

When Jaden Gray collapsed in class on Wednesday, Sept. 27, nobody knew quite what had happened. But school staff acted quickly, saving his life, Jaden’s mother Crystal Boddy said Monday.

In fact, they saved it twice.

The next day, Principal Jerry Lamey took the AED to a local fire station to print out a report of what had happened - the results led doctors at Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children to realize Gray had a heart attack and not a seizure, as originally suspected.

“One of the doctors said the AED saved his life,” Lamey said.

Instead of discharging Gray and letting him go home, medical staff ran additional tests and scheduled surgery to implant a cardioverter-defibrillator, capable of restarting his heart if he goes into cardiac arrest again.

“Twice that week they saved my baby,” Boddy said, calling staff at Hodgson “angels” for what they did.

Before the incident, Gray was completely healthy, Boddy said. She personally has no family history of heart disease and neither does Gray’s father, Eric Gray.

Gray was on the football team and liked to play basketball, something he can no longer do because of his implant. Contact sports are no longer possible, though the school hopes to keep Gray involved with the football team, perhaps as a manager.

“I don’t remember that day at all,” Gray said Monday. “It’s really surprising and random because they still don’t know what happened.”

A battery of tests revealed nothing, he said. Boddy said the family is waiting on the results of genetic testing, which could take two to three months.

“Worst day of my life,” Gray’s father said.

Diksa, one of the school nurses, has worked at Hodgson for 15 years. McMullen has worked there eight, while school resource officer Szymanksi has worked there 11.

Sept. 27 was the first time any of them had to use one of the schools automatic defibrillators.

They acted on instinct, they said, calling upon their training to save Gray’s life.

“I think we’re just grateful to God that in Delaware we have a school nurse in every building and AEDs,” Diksa said. “We’re grateful that Jaden is here with us today.”

A program called First State, First Shock has helped make sure there are AEDs in public and private buildings statewide.

Using money from the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement, under which tobacco companies made payments to states to compensate them for the medical costs of caring for people with smoking-related illnesses, First State, First Shock has purchased over 2,300 defibrillators.

When it comes to cardiac arrest, every second counts, according to the American Heart Association.

Each year in the U.S., more than 350,000 cardiac arrests outside of the hospital and just 5.2 percent of victims survive. CPR and early defibrillation with an AED can more than double a victim’s chance of survival. In fact, in many cases, early defibrillation is the only way to restore the victim’s heart rhythm to normal, according to the American Heart Association.

For every minute that passes without CPR and early defibrillation, the chances of survival decrease 7 to 10 percent, making the placement of AEDs in public places that much more important, the heart association said.

Yet, as of 2014, only 64 percent of American have ever seen an AED.

“The American Heart Association strongly encourages companies and organizations to implement AED programs to increase the chances of survival who have heart-related emergencies,” said spokeswoman Stephanie Brown in an email. “With an active AED program, a potential rescuer will be better equipped to save the life of a co-worker, friend, family member or stranger.”


Information from: The News Journal of Wilmington, Del., https://www.delawareonline.com

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