March 11 should have been like any other day in Marty Myers’ more than 20-year career as a sports writer.
He walked into Freedom High School to cover a basketball game between Dunmore High and Philadelphia’s Imhotep Charter School for the Scranton Times-Tribune. But before he even stepped into the gym, he collapsed in the school’s lobby.
Myers, 59, doesn’t remember any of it, he said Monday night. But he went into cardiac arrest, and fell so hard that he would later need 17 staples to the head.
“I was walking into the gym, I looked in the gym and saw the Dunmore girls stretching, and the next thing I know, I was in the back of an ambulance,” Myers said.
Luckily for Myers, he had a team around him that was trained in how to respond quickly in a situation like that. Freedom basketball coach Joe Stellato immediately started CPR, and Freedom athletic trainer Dana Bennett soon reached Myers to begin work with an automated external defibrillator.
The small, portable machines can deliver a potentially life-saving shock to those who go into sudden cardiac arrest, in addition to using an automated voice that guides the user on how to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
Maureen Burke, Dunmore’s athletic trainer, also worked on Myers. Bennett and Stellato were honored by the school district at Monday’s school board meeting.
The whole thing happened so quickly, both Bennett and Stellato said.
“There was no time to think at all,” said Bennett, 23.
Bennett, who had never met Myers, went to St. Luke’s University Hospital in Fountain Hill later that night to make sure he was OK. Myers thanked her and Stellato, but even that seemed not enough, he said.
“I owe them everything,” Myers said. “I don’t know what to say, other than ‘thank you,’ and that doesn’t seem enough. It never will be.”
Bennett, Stellato and Myers said if Myers was going to go into cardiac arrest anywhere, he was lucky that he was in a place that had people who know CPR and had defibrillators on hand.
“I don’t know how lucky one guy can be,” Myers said.
Stellato, who gets training every year in CPR and the automated external defibrillator, said he doesn’t know what was going on in his head that night. It was the first time he’s ever had to put his training to use.
“I was just focused on what to do next,” he said.
Rachel Moyer, whose 15-year-old son, Gregory Moyer, died 15 years ago after collapsing at a basketball game, was also at Monday’s meeting to present the district with eight automated external defibrillators.
Since Gregory’s death, Moyer has advocated for the widespread availability of defibrillators.
Only 23 states require defibrillators in at least some of their schools, according to the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation, a Pittsburgh nonprofit that advocates for more access to AEDs. Pennsylvania is not one of them.
“I couldn’t bring [Gregory] back, but I can make sure that all our school districts have AEDs on site, people know where they are, and people know how to use them,” she said.
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