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January 12, 2012

Mont. teen revived by CPR, AED

By Hillary Matheson
Daily Inter Lake

COLUMBIA FALLS, Mont. — "Miraculous" is how Columbia Falls High School nurse Cathy Dragonfly described the first breath taken by 16-year-old Cole Brown after he collapsed during P.E. class from cardiac arrest.

"It was amazing," Dragonfly said.

Dragonfly was one of the first responders along with health and P.E. teacher Troy Bowman. Both American Red Cross trainers, they were called to the scene the morning of Jan. 4 after Brown collapsed, apparently after a collision.

Bowman said he felt overwhelming relief when the freshman began breathing.

"It really didn't really hit me how serious the situation was until we hooked up the machine and needed to shock him," Bowman said. "Immediately after the first shock we saw changes in body color and he was taking his own breaths."

Brown's mother, Devie, said it was extremely important that the school had an automated external defibrillator on site and trained professionals to help her son.

"It would have been a totally different story if it wasn't for that," Devie Brown said.

On Tuesday, he returned for a full day of school.

"That's amazing in itself," his mother said.

The incident may have stemmed from an undiagnosed heart murmur. The family continues to work with physicians to monitor their son's health, she said.

The rescue was a team effort from the start when 911 was called.

Brown was unresponsive and not breathing.

Dragonfly and Bowman immediately began cardiopulmonary resuscitation while other teachers retrieved a nearby automated external defibrillator and kept more than 100 classmates, also in the gym at the time, calm.

After a couple of cycles of cardiopulmonary resuscitation, the rescuers called for the automated external defibrillator. It's a portable device that monitors a heartbeat and determines if an electric shock is needed to regulate or bring back a heartbeat.

After placing electrode pads above and below the heart, the device advised a shock was needed and at the press of a button delivered a potentially life-saving electric current.

Then Dragonfly and Bowman resumed CPR until Brown was breathing on his own and had a pulse by the time an ambulance arrived.

This was the first incident in the district that required use of an automated external defibrillator.

"We have AEDs here, thank goodness. That is one thing we believe is important about this incident, having AEDs in schools," Dragonfly said. "They are lifesaving machines.

While Montana schools are not required to have automated external defibrillators on site, there are three in Columbia Falls High School. As a coach and athletic trainer, Bowman has carried an automated external defibrillator to sports events since 1996.

After a Bigfork High School student died from cardiac arrest during football practice in 2007, Columbia Falls purchased more defibrillators to place in every building by the following school year.

Currently, there are 10 defibrillators throughout the district. Bowman ordered four more automated external defibrillators the day after Brown's collapse, in order to make them even more accessible by having one on each level of a two-story building, for example.

Bowman said the incident shows how important health screenings and sports physicals are. Columbia Falls began offering electrocardiography screenings with sports physicals at an additional cost of $20 about two years ago.

Bowman hopes to find a way to defray the cost and make families more aware of the service so that more families take advantage of it to diagnose any underlying heart issues.

Republished with permission by Daily Inter Lake