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Defibrillator, school staff help save OCHS student's life

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By Tracy Harris

A defibrillator and the quick work of Oldham County High School faculty saved a student’s life last week when 16-year-old Cole Gibson went into cardiac arrest.

Principal Brent Deaves said Gibson, a junior, was in class when the incident occurred.

Teacher Joan Thompson immediately called the office and reported a medical issue and Assistant Principal Stan Torzewski rushed to the classroom.

Torzewski began CPR and campus nurse Sherry Stone continued it upon her arrival minutes later.

Rich Graviss, associate principal, retrieved the school’s automatic external defibrillator. The AED assesses a patient’s condition and administers a shock if necessary.

Gibson received four shocks from the AED before EMTs found a pulse, said Oldham County EMS Capt. David Price. 

EMTs transported Gibson to the hospital. 

Deaves said he is very proud of the staff and students for their response. 

“Thank God we had the defibrillator,” he said. “I think it saved this kid’s life.”

Gibson’s mother, Jean Smith, said they now know Gibson has an irregular heartbeat.

Gibson underwent surgery over the weekend as doctors installed a pacemaker.

He is now home and in recovery.

“God was definitely conducting a choir of angels that morning,” Smith said.

Smith, whose husband works at OCHS, rushed to the school before EMTs transported Gibson to the hospital.

Fiscal court and OCEMS recongized the OCHS faculty involved in saving Gibson’s life at Tuesday’s meeting.

The staff members received life saver awards to recognize their efforts and quick reactions.

Smith learned fiscal court would recognize the staff just 30 minutes before fiscal court began and arrived with her hair still damp, she said.

She had been watching a movie at home with her son, she said — something she might not be doing if not for the efforts of Thompson, Torzewski, Graviss and Stone.

“I can’t even tell you how thankful I am,” she said.

According to Deaves, it is at least the second time school officials have used the AED, although in the other situation the device determined a shock was not necessary.

The South Oldham Lions Club sponsors an AED project that raises funds to install the devices in Oldham schools.

The club donated an AED to South Oldham High in 2004, and in 2009 a student went into cardiac arrest after doing pushups. 

The school’s AED restored Sean McNew’s heart rhythm. McNew survived and his parents credit the AED for saving his life.

Currently, all of Oldham’s public schools have AEDs installed. 

The central office, Oldham County Schools Arts Center and the new transportation annex will have the units soon. 

A second medical emergency occurred at OCHS Thursday, but few details are available at this time. 

Deaves said the student remained responsive during the incident and did not need CPR or the AED. However, EMS did transport the student to a local hospital.