Sixteen-year-old Atlanta-area first baseman Alex Norwood hit a dramatic grand slam in a winning cause on March 21, but his truly game-changing hit was none that never appeared on the scoreboard.
In a junior varsity game at Newtown High, the Rockdale County High junior came through in the clutch in a way that mattered even more when, between the second and third innings, home plate umpire Woody Reagin suffered a massive heart attack and collapsed.
Split seconds mattered, and someone called 911 as Rockdale coach Jerrid Harris yelled for anyone who knew cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
"I Know How To Do CPR"
Harris attracted an unexpected first responder. "I thought I was going to turn around and see a professional," the coach said afterwards, "That is how confident the voice behind me was. I turned around and saw Alex," who had run from the dugout to the plate.
"I know how to do CPR. I'm ready to go," said the first baseman, who received his CPR certification just two weeks earlier for a summer job as a lifeguard.
Within a minute, Alex and his coach had removed the stricken umpire's shirt and chest protector. Feeling no pulse, Alex began a series of thirty chest compressions until two off-duty emergency medical technicians at the field stepped in.
"I felt like I didn't do that much," said Alex afterwards, "I just got it started before the EMTs [emergency medical technicians] got there. . . . It was the coaches, EMTs that really did it." Reagin, airlifted to a local hospital and expected to make a full recovery, would likely disagree with the self-effacing ballplayer's effort to deflect praise.
"I Was Put There for a Reason"
Alex Norwood's story recalls a similar crisis at the Tennessee state high school wrestling tournament at the Williamson County Ag Expo in Franklin, Tennessee on February 14, 2013. Heritage High School (Maryville, Tenn.) junior Schuyler LaRue was in the restroom preparing for his opening-round match fifteen minutes later. A fan, 68-year-old Ron Bussey, suffered sudden cardiac arrest, collapsed, and struck his head on the restroom floor.
Like Alex Norwood, the all-state wrestler knew CPR from lifeguard training. Using the school's automatic external defibrillator (AED), Schuyler got Bussey into a neutral position and began doing chest compressions.
"His pulse went in and out, and I just kept going" until an emergency medical technician at the other end of the Expo responded to the public address announcer's requests for medical assistance.
"I was put there for a reason," Schuyler explained later about why he just happened to be in the right place at the right time. "I would hope that if I was in that situation, someone would do the same for me."
Minutes later, he won his opening match in the 182-pound weight class. He lost by one point in overtime in a later round, but Ron Bussey, like umpire Woody Reagin, was expected to make a full recovery.
"You Can Never Have Enough Qualified Hands"
Brooke de Lench, Lindsay Barton and other MomsTEAM.com staff write frequently about the life-saving potential of CPR training. (Just do a word search on the website for "CPR" or visit the MomsTEAM Cardiac Safety Center under the Health and Safety Tab.). This assembled body of advice and instruction recognizes that cardiac emergencies do not happen often at sports venues, but that they do happen.
The Liberty Mutual Insurance Responsible Sports program is right: "You can never have enough qualified hands in case of an emergency." CPR training should be a central part of preseason instruction sessions for community youth league coaches, who attend every practice session and game. In many places, training is already mandated for interscholastic coaches. Training should also be offered to parents who wish to be prepared while they sit in the stands.
The stories of Alex Norwood and Schuyler LaRue demonstrate why the march toward greater safety should not stop with the adults. Fifteen states mandate CPR training as a condition for high school graduation. School districts in other states could offer this training as a free-standing unit, or else integrate it into existing science, health studies, or life skills courses.
Providers such as the American Red Cross and the American Heart Association might enlist instructors at little or no cost throughout the academic year, and training generally takes only about four hours or less, a relatively modest time commitment that can accommodate existing syllabi.
Alex Norwood and Schuyler LaRue had never applied their CPR training in an emergency, but umpire Woody Reagin and fan Ron Bussey owed them debts of gratitude for learning their lessons well and following their instincts when it counted. Taking the initiative to learn CPR, and then remaining composed under life-and-death pressure, do not happen by accident.
High School Baseball Player Comes to the Rescue After Umpire Collapses, Atlanta J.-Const., Mar. 22, 2014; Scott Stump, "I Wasn't Nervous": Teen Baseball Player Helps Save Umpire With CPR, USA Today, Mar. 28, 2014; Sarah Gearhart, Schuyler LaRue Puts Life-Saving Skills to Good Use at Wrestling Tournament, USA Today, http://www.usatodayhss.com/inspiration/article/schuyler-larue-heritage-w... Maurice Patton, High School Wrestler Administers CPR to Fan Who Collapsed Prior to State Tournament, The Tennessean, http://www.usatodayhss.com/news/article/high-school-wrestler-administers... States Where CPR Training Is Mandatory for High School Graduation, http://schoolcpr.com/about/states-where-cpr-training-is-mandatory-for-hi...