Several Lakeshore High School personnel were commended at the June 7 School Board committee meeting for their heroic actions May 14 in saving the life of a high school junior by using an Automatic External Defibrillator (AED).
Student Ryan Coco suffered a sudden cardiac arrest while in third period math class, and through the “quick and decisive” actions of Principal Brennan McCurley, his assistant principal, three teachers, the School’s Athletic Director, and School Resource Officer, his sudden cardiac arrest was successfully dealt with.
The student’s father, Ernie Coco, thanked the group for their expert response to the emergency and told the School Board “based on the medical evidence we have there is no doubt that the AED did save my son’s life. Through their quick actions, he will be able to live a normal life.”
An AED is a medical device that helps restore a normal heartbeat when someone is experiencing “sudden cardiac arrest.” It provides audio instructions to guide the user through the several steps in operating the device to save the person’s life.
Larry Favre, Parish Athletic Director, told the Board that the group followed a “textbook response” to the situation. Members of the group present at the Board meeting were Principal McCurley, Assistant Principal Steve Soileau, Athletic Director Steve Alfonso, Teachers Andrew Knock, Michelle Mecom and Meredith Alvarez, and School Resource Officer Jose Hernandez with the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office.
“Through their efforts, this potentially dire circumstance was transformed into a life-saving event,” Favre said. “It was step by step how we want our personnel to respond in these types of emergency situations. The communication among themselves, the family, and the area first responders was flawless.”
They assessed the situation, secured the scene, started CPR and activated the AED, just as they were trained to do, Favre recounted. The incident was handled so well, he said, that most the school was unaware of that the emergency had taken place. “Without the availability of an AED on campus, all of their efforts might have been in vain,” Favre stated. “Their efforts could serve as a training video.”
Nancy Barcia of the Chad Barcia Athlete Awareness Foundation gave each person a certificate recognizing their efforts, and Ann Hebert with the Jeremy Hebert Defibrillator Fund thanked the Board for installing AED’s in all schools over the past three years. Those two groups have donated more than a dozen of the AED units over the past year to help the school board reach its goal to place at least one AED in each school.
The School Board started a campaign in February of 2009 to provide AED units to all schools. They were first placed in high school athletic departments, and as the need became known, several community service groups donated funds to buy AED’s for the junior high, middle school, and elementary schools.
The AED units have been credited with saving two lives on St. Tammany public school campuses in the past three years.
Ms. Barcia said her organization’s goal is to get AED’s in every Louisiana school. She thanked each person involved for their part in saving a heart and a life and distributed certificates of appreciation to the members of the group.
Ms. Hebert noted that the presentation was being made during National CPR and AED Awareness Week, an event that Congress enacted in 2007 at the urging of the American Heart Association. “St. Tammany Parish Public Schools recognized their importance three years ago and met the need by partnering with groups throughout the community,” she said. She congratulated the Lakeshore staff for their courage and skill in handling the event, and she presented them with a plaque to hang at the school.
Committee Chairman Ray Alfred recognized the outstanding job performed by the Lakeshore High group and said the Board was glad to have reached the goal of having AED’s on all school campuses in the parish.
Helping to train School System employees in the proper use of the life-saving units, officials with Fire Protection District No. 4 gave more than 280 School System employees instructions on how to use the automated external defibrillators.
In April of 2009, the Kiwanis Club donated an AED to Covington High School, and in October of last year, the Kiwanis donated an additional three automated external defibrillators for Covington Elementary, Lyon Elementary, and Pitcher Junior High. Earlier this year, at Cypress Cove Elementary in Slidell, the Slidell Evening Lions Club presented a $1500 check to Ms. Hebert for purchasing additional AED’s.
Superintendent of Schools W. L. “Trey” Folse, III, said, “The response to the effort has been excellent, and in just three years, we have reached our goal of placing an Automated External Defibrillator in every school in the parish. Our employees are trained and have already used the AED units twice to save lives on campuses.”
“When we launched this effort in 2009, we knew our parents would turn out in support, as well as our community partners, the businesses and community service groups who have become a major source of donations to this project,” he went on to say. “We thank the Chad Barcia Athlete Awareness Foundation and the Jeremy Hebert Defibrillator Fund for their outstanding contributions, as well as the PTA groups, Lions and Kiwanis clubs, and all our students, staff, and faculty who took part in the Jerseys for Jeremy project.”
“Once again St. Tammany Parish Public Schools are leading the way in the best interests of our children, and the School Board’s adoption of the AED policy and placement of AED units in all of our schools will protect future generations for years to come,” Superintendent Folse concluded.