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October 13, 2009

Athletic trainers save Calif. teen after cardiac arrest

By Barbara Giasone
The Orange County Register

FULLERTON, Calif. — When Fullerton College athlete Jared Marchbanks lost consciousness and hit the pavement face first in a campus parking lot 14 days ago, death was coming at him fast.

But something extraordinary happened instead.

Two colleagues in the right place at the right time — both trained in resuscitation — came to Marchbanks' aid. Later, a new state-of-the-art system at St. Jude Medical Center to induce hypothermia preserved the student's nervous system and brain.

Marchbanks' father, Don, thinks of the incident as "divine providence."

The college's certified athletic trainer, Lisa Nelson, calls the episode, "God watching out for Jared, and I was the person God chose."

Co-head athletic trainer Juan Cuevas simply says, "God put me in the right place at the right time, and I was definitely part of the plan."

Consider the circumstances.

Marchbanks, 18, had forgotten his jersey for baseball practice, and was running to his car to get the shirt when he fell face down on the asphalt.

Passersby started to crowd around.

Nelson, 50, an athletic trainer for 28 years, had decided for the first time in six months to leave campus for lunch. She saw the commotion, stopped her car in a red zone and ran to the victim.

"I noticed he was gasping for breath and I felt no pulse, so I started mouth-to-mouth," she said.

"As I was doing CPR, I looked up and saw FC football player Joel Bonomolo. I told him to get Juan to bring the school's defibrillator."

Cuevas, 32, picks up the story.

"Joel rode his skateboard over, and I grabbed the defibrillator," Cuevas said. "When I got to Jared, I applied the defibrillator pads to jump-start his heart and continued CPR. By then, someone had called paramedics."

In minutes, Marchbanks was on his way to St. Jude, sirens blaring. Emergency-room doctors assessed the situation and called Dr. Panagiotis Bougas in inpatient medicine. Bougas called for the cardiac care unit nurses to get the Arctic Sun machine, which drops the patient's temperature to 91.4 degrees for 18 to 24 hours and slows the brain's metabolic rate to preserve the brain and nervous system.

It's a Friday afternoon, four days after the life-threatening incident. Marchbanks is lying in bed, wearing Los Angeles Dodgers pajamas and a shirt, with a Dodger monkey on the pillow. He's patiently waiting for the first pitch between the Los Angeles team and Colorado Rockies, knowing it could be a Western Division decider.

A parade of visitors from his church, Voyagers in Irvine, has been in and out of his room, bringing cookies, cards and good wishes.

Next come the teammates he's known for only five weeks since he joined the college baseball team.

"These guys are great," he says.

Marchbanks hopes to be back at school in weeks. He wants to return to the playing field and eventually become a history teacher and high school coach.

Bougas says Marchbanks has a good chance for a normal life.

"I've seen patients as young as Jared, but it's quite rare," he says.

On Tuesday, Marchbanks was released from St. Jude and surprised the City Council by joining in congratulating Nelson and Cuevas for their efforts. Each trainer received a special commendation.

Dr. Rahul Doshi in cardiac electrophysiology reviewed Marchbanks' tests and decided: "Jared suffered an episode of sudden cardiac arrest. The exact cause is not known and may never be known."

However, he believes it is the result of an electrical malfunction. Without urgent treatment, including CPR and a defibrillator applied within minutes of the heart stopping, death is certain, Doshi said.

As a precaution, Doshi inserted an automatic implanted cardioverter defibrillator to ensure Marchbanks will never go through this again.
Fullerton College certified athletic trainers Lisa Nelson and Juan Cuevas are credited with saving the life of a Fullerton College baseball player after he collapsed during sudden cardiac arrest Sept. 28.

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