You At Your Best

March 2019 • The Wellness Issue

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sPecIal TO nWa DeMOcraT-GazeTTe "Pray for Kennedy," her father's Facebook post began. "The school just called. She stood up from her chair to go to a different class and then fell to the floor. She had no pulse and stopped breathing..." Fourteen-year-old Kennedy Allison's heart had stopped. A cheerleader at Pea Ridge High School, Kennedy had no prior signs or symptoms of heart disease. Now she was turning blue, her brain – and all other vital organs – deprived of oxygen. But thanks to the fast action of her teacher, a school nurse and a coach, Kennedy's life was saved and she is expected to have no long-term damage from her sudden cardiac arrest. Northwest Health recognized these three life-savers for the fast action that saved Kennedy's life and prevented long-term disability. Her father, Keith Allison, says he doesn't believe in coincidences and that God had all the right people lined up to save Kennedy. The school nurse said it was surreal, it went so smoothly. And a doctor and paramedic confirm that everyone's fast action – and the AED (automated external defibrillator) at the school – saved Kennedy's life. When Kennedy fell to the floor, her teacher, Connie Trotter, immediately notified the school nurse, LaRay Thetford, who ran to the room. LaRay accessed Kennedy quickly, determining her heart stopped and she was no longer breathing. She immediately began CPR, had 9-1-1 called and got Coach John King to bring the AED. Coach King – who is also the school's health teacher and co-teaches CPR with Nurse Thetford – joined her as they tag- teamed performing CPR on Kennedy. "As we were doing CPR, there was no sign of life," LaRay said. "I put the AED pads on her chest and it walked us through what to do. I've had so much training but it's very different when you have to use one in a real-life situation like this. I had a peace come over me because it was telling me exactly what to do." Pea Ridge's EMS arrived at the scene in less than two minutes. Lead Paramedic LaRon Edwards and Pea Ridge Deputy Chief and Medic Jack Wassman along with EMTs Ryan Walker and Riley Heasley responded. "When I walked into the classroom, she was lying lifeless on the floor – no color, eyes fixed," Edwards said. "They had the AED hooked on her. It was analyzing, and shock was advised. After the shock, I started CPR again, did one round and she gasped for breath. She had a good, pounding pulse. I immediately began to bag (oxygenate) her. My main focus was to keep her breathing." Her mom, Jennifer, arrived as they were putting Kennedy in the ambulance. "I let her mom get in the back of the ambulance with us," Edwards said. "This resonated with me because I have a son who is 16. I was intubating Kennedy while trying to encourage her mother and get Kennedy's medical history." Edwards works as a full-time paramedic/firefighter for the Bentonville Fire Department and part-time for the City of Pea Ridge, where he was that day. He also is a CPR instructor. "Most people just don't know how important knowing CPR is," Edwards said, "but it's the basics that keep people alive. Kennedy surviving without any long-term damage is the direct result of them doing great CPR." Pea Ridge's EMS transported Kennedy to Northwest Medical Center- Bentonville. "They got her to the ER, took her to a room and began to evaluate her and get information from us," Keith explained. "And when the medic was getting information from us, he asked if he could pray with us. We were just sitting there trying to take it all in." "I was created to serve and that's what it's all about it," Edwards said. "I remember a song my grandma used to sing to me that went: 'If I can help one somebody, my living won't be in vain.' And that's what I try to live by." Edwards also works part-time in the Northwest Medical Center-Bentonville Emergency Department so he was familiar with what was happening and was able to both educate and comfort the family. The Bentonville ED staff did a CT scan of her brain, which was clear, and blood work, which was normal. They made sure Kennedy was stable for transfer to Arkansas Children's Hospital. After further evaluation, it was determined that Kennedy suffered ventricular fibrillation (V-fib) – a heart rhythm problem that occurs when the heart beats with rapid, erratic electrical impulses. Since this causes the pumping chambers of the heart (the ventricles) to quiver uselessly, instead of pumping blood, V-fib causes the blood pressure to plummet, cutting off blood supply to vital organs, and causing the person to collapse within seconds. It is the most frequent cause of sudden cardiac death, which is what Kennedy experienced. Only 17 percent of people experiencing sudden cardiac death outside a hospital setting will survive. Dr. Joe Olivi, Director of Trauma Services for Northwest Health, says everyone appears to have taken all the right actions. "When your heart stops, time is everything. The quick action of those at the scene saved Kennedy and helped her avoid long-term damage," Dr. Olivi said. "Even though Kennedy wasn't responding initially, the CPR they were doing helped to oxygenate her brain. Without a doubt, without that CPR, there would have been a different outcome. This helped Kennedy survive without any permanent damage. But without the AED on-site, she probably wouldn't have survived at all." Kennedy's father knows how fortunate they are. "The fact they were trained and ready and so efficient ... it's no accident that Kennedy's alive and healthy," Keith said. "And had it happened anywhere but the school – where they had an AED and were trained and confident and didn't panic – we may not have had the same result. God used them all to save her." Kennedy now has an automatic implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (AICD) implanted in her chest. This device will continuously monitor her heart's rhythm and can deliver an electrical impulse or shock to the heart if it senses a life-threatening heart rhythm change. Thanks to those who took such great care of her, Kennedy's home and back at school again. And Northwest Health continues teaching CPR and AED use to people throughout Northwest Arkansas. Northwest Health recognizes Pea Ridge school teacher, nurse and coach who saved a life 14-year old Kennedy Allison experienced sudden cardiac arrest at school Pictured (from left): Jamie Mann, northwest health athletic Trainer for Pea ridge high school; Teacher connie Trotter; coach John King; Keith allison; Kennedy allison; school nurse laray Thetford; Jennifer allison (only partially visible); steve Badger, ceO of northwest Medical center- Bentonville (presenting the awards); and Mickey stout, Director of emergency services for northwest health. 4 | YOU AT YOUR BEST | nwAdg.cOm/YOUATYOURBEST mARch - wEllnESS | SATURdAY, FEBRUARY 23, 2019

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