A Colonia basketball player’s life was saved Tuesday at Edison High School, thanks to the heroic efforts of coaches and staffers from both schools. But if it wasn’t for a needed government response to earlier tragedies, life-saving tools might not have been available to those on the scene.
During the second quarter of a freshman boys game Tuesday afternoon, a Colonia player collapsed near midcourt. Colonia coach Joe LaSala immediately recognized the urgency involved and felt the player needed a defibrillator. Edison physical education teacher Mark Blevins, who had been operating the scoreboard clock, and Colonia assistant coach Tyler Jackow ran for the AED device outside the gym. Edison athletic trainer Tim Root applied the defibrillator shocks that began to revive the player. Edison freshman coach Chris Banos also assisted until emergency responders arrived at the scene within a few minutes.
Everyone involved deserves high praise for their professionalism and skill. Woodbridge Schools Superintendent Robert Zega called it a “miracle.” But there are also others who warrant their own recognition for helping make those life-saving efforts possible.
For instance, we should thank Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan, D-South Plainfield, who several years ago aggressively spearheaded legislation to require AEDs (automatic external defibrillators) in all schools, and that students be provided with information about sudden cardiac deaths.
There was an unfortunate irony to Tuesday’s incident occurring at Edison High. Six years ago, Kittim Sherrod, an Edison football player, died after collapsing during a training run at the school. He was found to have suffered from an undiagnosed heart condition, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, His death, and the similar death of another Middlesex County athlete, Brandon James of South Brunswick, prompted Diegnan’s AED legislation. Also championing that cause was Sherrod’s grandmother, Razeenah Walker, who worked with Diegnan in crafting the legislation and testified in support before the Assembly Education Committee.
Another piece of legislation that has become law also requires the creation of emergency action plans to respond to sudden cardiac events. At least five school employees, team coaches or athletic trainers must be properly certified in cardio-pulmonary resuscitation and the use of a defibrillator. Named Janet’s Law, the measure was created in memory of Janet Zilinski, an 11-year-old from Warren who died of sudden cardiac arrest after a cheerleading practice in 2006.
These are examples of government action at its finest, the way it’s supposed to work. A problem is exposed, a dedicated representative develops a response to fix it, or at least reduce the chances of a repeat occurrence, and our leaders turn it into law. Every school in the state now benefits.
But none of it would have meant anything if Root and Blevins, and the coaches of both teams Tuesday, hadn’t taken their responsibilities seriously, assuring they knew what to do and how to do it as quickly as possible when needed.
Edison High School parents and students should be comforted by the knowledge that their school’s personnel care. And a Colonia family no doubt feels special gratitude for those who helped save a loved one’s life.