A Long Island teenager is living proof that Automated External Defibrillators, and the people behind the paddles, matter — a lot. His life was saved because NYSUT successfully advocated for a law requiring AEDs in all school buildings.
Herricks eighth-grader Shanketh Kumar was running a warmup lap for gym class when he collapsed on the grass. Educators delivered rescue breaths and CPR compressions, and called for the school nurse. Kumar lost his pulse. He wasn't breathing.
"When I got there, he was laying looking up. His eyes were wide open. He was dead," said school nurse Dana Lieberman, a member of the Herricks Teachers Association. She hollered for an AED. Physical education teacher Pam Seebald knew exactly where the AEDs were and ran to grab one. Lieberman blew into the boy's lungs while nurse Tracey Baumann and physical education teacher Joe Welsh administered compressions.
"They do 30 compressions. I do two breaths. They do 30 compressions. I do two breaths," she said. "There was no reaction. You just do what you're trained to do. It was the scariest day of my life."
Then, Lieberman put the AED pads on Kumar's chest, and shocked him. "He was gasping. We kept breathing for him," she said. Ambulance and fire department crews showed up and transported Kumar to the emergency room.
The eight educators who turned a trauma into a transformation — school nurses Lieberman and Baumann, physical education teachers Arthur Friess, Dennis Horton, Seebald and Welsh, all members of the Herricks TA, and Principal Joan Keegan and Assistant Principal Tom Aird — were honored with the Liberty Medal of Honor, New York State's highest civilian honor, for exceptional, heroic or humanitarian acts. The heroes were also honored by the Herricks Board of Education and at a school presentation.
Kumar has no recollection of what happened that day. He later had surgery to place an internal defibrillator in his heart, and returned to school a month later. "Shanketh stops by to smile and say, 'hi.' It really makes our day in the nurses' office," said Lieberman.
"I think it is so important to have as many people as possible trained to do CPR and use an AED.
"We always had three AEDs in the school and now we have five. One is right outside my office. It reminds me every day of what happened and how lucky we all are to have one and that it worked."