GALLATIN, Tenn. (WTVF) — After a cardiac arrest episode, a 16-year-old Sumner County student-athlete credits the school nurse, trained teachers and an automated external defibrillator with saving his life.
"It can happen to anyone. I'm a perfect example. I'm a healthy person, very active, very in shape and happened to me out of the blue," explained Station Camp High School sophomore Linton Beck.
Beck has been running cross country and doing track since the second grade, which is why what happened on April 20 came as a huge surprise.
"I remember walking into this class. And then I remember being in the hospital. I don't remember really any of the event," said Beck. "What I've been told was I walked into class, I was talking to my friends eating a pop tart. And then I just fell over."
That is when his chemistry teacher sprung into action.
"I was in the hallway greeting students as they come in every day. And all of a sudden a student came out and just said, ‘something's not right,'" recalled Jeremy Bartlett, Station Camp chemistry teacher and basketball coach. "When I got into the room, hit the button to call for help. I got over Linton and who was sitting in his chair still but not responsive, we were able to notify the office that we needed help."
That is when the school nurse ran up to the science wing and found Beck seizing.
"I noticed he didn't have a pulse. And he was gasping, his respirations were not compatible with life—or were not effective. And so then I started CPR, called for an AED, and the SET team," explained Amanda Welty, Station Camp school nurse. "We shocked him twice the second shock saved his life and he got a pulse back about a minute later and then the ambulance came and took him to Vanderbilt."
Beck spent more than a week at the hospital and was back at school a week later.
"It was amazing. An amazing outcome. I'm super thankful that Linton is OK. Very thankful that we have an AED and every school, a nurse in every school and excellently trained settings in our school in our county," Welty said.
Welty admitted Beck's emergency was the first time in her 25-year career she had to use an AED and credits the school's SET team (School Emergency Team) with helping her save him.
"They are teachers who volunteer to be a SET member and they have to go to extensive training with nurses with Sumner County school nurses and they have to learn first aid, CPR, AED training, how to treat asthma, how to treat anaphylaxis, how to treat any school emergency. So it's a big deal," she stated.
According to the American Heart Association, about 356,000 people experience cardiac arrest each year in the U.S. with 7,000 of those being less than 18 years old. The current survival rate is 12%.
Although it can happen at any age, Welty explained, "Sudden cardiac arrest affects teenagers." That is why she said becoming a Heart Safe School through Project ADAM was so critical.
"Project ADAM is a program that supports schools as they prepare for cardiac emergencies. It is our goal that when we finish our training the school staff and coaches understand how to recognize a sudden cardiac arrest victim and provide an immediate and appropriate response with CPR and AED use while waiting on EMS arrival," explained Project ADAM Middle Tennessee Coordinator Angel Carter. "We help schools understand how to maintain their AEDs, how to ensure that they are visible and accessible to everyone on campus, that their staff know how to use them and that they run practice AED drills to test their cardiac emergency response plan."
Once a school campus completes the requirements, they are designated a Project ADAM Heart Safe School. Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital fully funds the program, providing it free of charge to schools and communities.
Currently, in Middle Tennessee, out of the 41 counties Vanderbilt covers, 23 entire county school districts are designated as Project ADAM Heart Safe (a total of 326 individual school campuses within those counties) and nine school districts are working through the process.
Although Bartlett was not a designated SET Team member, he said his years as a coach for the school played a part in his response.
"[I've] gone through First Aid CPR training 16 times I believe in the last 18 years," he said. "Being around sports, I think it just comes naturally that everybody's got a part that they have to do. And so once I knew there was somebody that knew more than me and could take over, then I was ready to step back and give any support that needed to be whether it was to go call a parent or to help get the AED, whatever needed to be done."
Welty emphasized the importance of acting quickly.
"When you come across the person who is not responsive, just do something. Something is better than nothing. Start compressions. Get the blood flowing to the brain, you have, you know, six to eight minutes before you have brain damage," she said, "So the quicker you start CPR, the quicker you call someone for an AED and get the AED on there, the better chances you have of saving that person's life."
Bartlett said he hopes other schools will take the time to become a Project ADAM Heart Healthy County like Sumner County did.
"Just be prepared, you don't know what situations are going to happen in a day. So it's better to have those things and have the ability to have tools that will save a life over wishing that you did," he said.
Sixteen-year-old Beck and his parents are still finding the words to convey their gratitude to the school nurse and SET Team.
"It’s just a big deal to be prepared. I mean, there are a lot of places that don't have the training, don't have the actual devices like our school does. I'm lucky enough to be in this school system to where there was a plan," said Beck.
"It just put some things in perspective to me to where all this–anything, anything just goes away in a moment," Beck said. "I could have been running... I was two blocks from where I would start running. And if I was running, it probably wouldn't have happened. If I was at home, it wouldn't have happened. If I was at church, if I was just walking around somewhere it wouldn't have happened. This is basically the only place where ever would have happened."
Anyone trying to help their school or district become part of the Project ADAM should email their interest to Angel Carter: email@example.com.