Article reposted from Burlington County Times
Friday, Feb. 17, started out as a normal day for Cherokee High School teacher Janet Pulverenti.
Her students had a half-day, and she was on her way to the school’s Performing Arts Center to complete some afternoon professional development with fellow teachers and staff members.
But as Pulverenti entered the room, her heart started beating quickly. She went into cardiac arrest and fell unconscious.
Luckily, four co-workers did more than just call 911. They also used CPR and an automated external defibrillator (AED) to revive Pulverenti in only about three minutes.
“Without them, I would not be here,” she said. “The doctors made it very clear to me that I shouldn’t be here.”
Head athletic trainer Jeff Wood, assistant athletic trainer Karen Hengst, paraprofessional Gary Denelsbeck and nurse-paraprofessional Felicia Progar were all honored as heroes at the Lenape Regional Board of Education meeting on Wednesday.
After Pulverenti went into cardiac arrest, staff members began calling 911 and using school radios to alert administrators, Superintendent Carol Birnbohm said. Denelsbeck and Progar, who were in the room, immediately began performing CPR.
“We had basketball practice going on,” said Hengst, who was in the gymnasium with Wood when they heard the calls over the radio.
The two, who are certified athletic trainers, quickly grabbed the AED and used it to shock Pulverenti’s heart. She regained consciousness almost immediately.
“The AED is what gave (Janet) her life,” Wood said.
Pulverenti said it was incredible that colleagues came from different parts of the building to come to her aid.
All involved expressed gratitude that they were in the right place at the right time.
Pulverenti, a teacher in the district for 14 years, said her husband and six children were equally grateful.
“I can’t express my gratitude enough,” she told the four after they received plaques and resolutions from the school board. “Thank you for my life.”
Birnbohm said she hopes the story of quick action and training will inspire others to invest in AEDs and train people about their effectiveness.
“Not only are we honoring you, but perhaps this story might make someone become more aware of the location of the AEDs in their building or community,” she said. “And just maybe, because someone heard your story, you will be responsible for saving more lives.”