A Knoxville teenager spent Tuesday recovering from a heart-stopping situation at Central High School. The student's family says the scene today would be very different if not for the quick reaction of coaches and some emergency medical equipment.
"He plays baseball and wants to be the next Todd Helton," said Ronnie Helton about his 14-year-old son, Hunter. "But this year he decided to go out for basketball."
Hunter Helton was running inside the Central High School gym Monday afternoon when he collapsed.
"All I remember was running and I had like a heartburn in my chest. I don't remember anything after that," said Hunter. "I woke up in the hospital."
"Coach Higgins at Central High School, he said Hunter was just running and he veered off and hit the floor. There was no notice or nothing. He thought it was a seizure," said Ronnie Helton. "I know Coach Higgins did CPR and it was through his training and that AED that saved Hunter's life."
The AED is an automated external defibrillator. A group called Project ADAM has worked to donate the electronic devices to schools throughout East Tennessee. Marianne Jennings, who works for East Tennessee Children's Hospital, founded the local Project ADAM program, and its run by the hospital. Jennings said her mission is to raise awareness about youth cardiac arrest and the ease of operating AEDs.
"What the AED does is read the rhythm of the heart and then if a shock is necessary, as it was in this case, it shocks the heart back into a normal rhythm," said Jennings. "There are cases where schools had AEDs and were afraid to use them. There are studies that show a 5th grader can safely operate an AED."
The AED also saved a readout for doctors to see exactly how Hunter's heart responded.
"It shocked his [Hunter's] heart three different times," said a tearful Ronnie Helton. "In two minutes and 49 seconds his heart beat one time. And they shocked him two more times and at 3:49 his heart jumped back into rhythm."
Hunter's mother said she is thankful the medical crisis struck while he was at school.
"He wouldn't be here today if he wasn't at the school and they didn't have a defibrillator and they didn't work so quickly," said Kelly Helton.
"I'd just like to thank all the basketball players over there that helped me and all the coaches and medical staff," said Hunter.
Hunter's next step is a trip to Vanderbilt in Nashville for more extensive heart tests. After that doctors will know if and when Hunter may be able to play sports again. For now, Hunter's family is just thankful he is alive and grateful for a device they had never heard of before Monday.
"It could have been anybody's child and it could have been at any school and them not have one [an AED]," said Ronnie Helton. "Thank God for those AEDs."