Weeks before the end of classes at Carrollton High School, a life-threatening incident played out — but it was resolved by quick-thinking officials and a portable medical device.
Susan Hall, the school nurse at CHS, said that at about 8:15 the morning of May 10, she received a call to assist administrators after a student, Issa Saba, collapsed in Hector’s Hangout, a popular gathering spot for students located in the CHS media center.
“My first thought was he had suffered a seizure,” Hall said. “Then I realized the student was not responding and was not breathing on his own.”
Hall then turned to newly-appointed Principal Ian Lyle, who had also rushed to the scene.
“I said to Mr. Lyle ‘I’m starting CPR and we need an AED,’ ” said Hall.
An AED, or automated external defibrillator, is used to help those experiencing sudden cardiac arrest. The sophisticated, easy-to-use, medical device can analyze the heart’s rhythm and, if necessary, deliver an electrical defibrillation shock to help the heart re-establish an effective rhythm.
Hall said it all happened so fast, she’s not even sure who delivered the device.
“When it was delivered, pads were placed on the student,” she said. “Once the AED analyzed and advised a shock, the shock was delivered and Mr. Lyle took over compressions while I administered breaths. This continued for two cycles — I believe — and the student began to move. We paused compressions/breaths, the AED analyzed and did not advise another shock.”
By this time, Hall said, paramedics had arrived on the scene and the student was responding to simple commands. He was transported to Children’s Egleston Hospital/Healthcare of Atlanta for further evaluation and treatment and is now recuperating with plans to return to school in August.
“This really was a team effort,” said Hall. “The media center was completely cleared of all students. There were administrators and teachers keeping all traffic out of the courtyard and away from the entrance to the media center.”
Lyle noted that all faculty and staff are required to go through annual training to prepare for events like the May 10 incident, but fortunately real-life occurrences are few and far between.
“It is a testament to the CHS faculty and staff for taking this training seriously, and because of that, a CHS student’s life was saved,” Lyle said. “As Ms. Hall noted, this incident was truly a team effort, and I am proud of their professionalism, plus their personal commitment to support the health and safety of our students.”
On the last day of School, May 28, Issa and his mother Melissa Juarez came to CHS to thank Hall and Lyle, in particular, for their immediate action that likely saved Issa’s life.
“I’m very grateful to God first. I’m grateful to the school for everything they did to help Issa,” said Juarez. “They were in the perfect place at the perfect time and responded in the perfect way. I am eternally grateful because they saved my son. This is a very serious issue and the school was very well-prepared to help with it. In the hospital [at Egleston] the doctor said, ‘This happened in exactly the right place and time because the people who responded did an outstanding job and saved his life.’ ”
Juarez added: “We want to share this with the community because it’s very important for everyone to know the importance of being prepared. My son didn’t feel anything odd that morning before his incident — he just collapsed without warning. The preparation everyone had done months before was what saved his life.”
Craig George, assistant superintendent of Operations for Carrollton City Schools, noted the AED that was used in saving the student’s life had been given to the school in 2019 by Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation.
“The Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation focuses on public safety initiatives and we applied for the grant to purchase additional AEDs,” said George. “While we already had AEDs in several locations, we wanted more to ensure easy access to one throughout campus. This purchase truly made all the difference in this student’s outcome and we couldn’t be more grateful.”
“We’re honored to play a small role in this life-saving story,” said Meghan Vargas, director of development for Firehouse Subs Safety Foundation. “Our foundation is committed to ensuring the right equipment is in the right hands at the right time, and that’s exactly what happened on May 10. The grant awarded to Carrollton City Schools for 12 AEDs was made in partnership with CLEAR Coalition, which provides AEDs and critical training to schools and organizations in Georgia. Carrollton City schools are all better prepared in the event of cardiac arrest.”