Posted by Bob Trenkamp on 01/29/2012

By: Sarah Gorvin, The Republican Eagle
Goodhue County.

When Red Wing School District began installing automated external defibrillators in its buildings a few years ago, high school Principal Beth Borgen said she hoped they would never need to be opened.

“I said, ‘This is the best use of taxpayers’ dollars that I hope we never have to use,’” she said.

But on Jan. 20, a student, whose name or age can’t be released due to privacy laws, sat down while running laps in the gym.

“They thought he was taking a breather,” school nurse Kris Klassen said.

Then the student collapsed unconscious into a staff member’s arms, and people knew something was seriously wrong. Klassen, who also works as an emergency room nurse, was called to the gym over walkie-talkie.

“I’ve been through this before, but not in a school setting,” she said.

Klassen checked the student’s airway and realized he wasn’t breathing. She then instructed staff to call 911 before giving the student a couple of breaths and starting chest compressions.

In the meantime, Borgen was also on her way to the gym after hearing the call and was just passing by the AED.

“I just happened to be in the right place at the right time to grab the AED,” she said.

Once Borgen brought the device down to the gym, Klassen applied the AED pads to the student’s chest. An AED monitors heart rhythms and tells the operators when shocks are necessary to get the heart back into a normal rhythm.

Klassen continued chest compressions and school security officer Mark Langenwalter performed rescue breaths in between the three times the AED shocked the student.

“That’s not something easy to watch,” Klassen said.

When paramedics arrived, they stabilized the student before he was brought to the emergency room.

“Everybody did their job, nobody lost composure,” Klassen said. “They were fantastic.”

While this is the first time that the district has had to use any of its AEDs, Supt. Karsten Anderson said the process went very smoothly.

“I was really very impressed with how things were operating,” he said. “It wasn’t just the big things, it was the little things.”

That included head custodian Al Harteneck shoveling the front sidewalk to clear the freshly fallen snow, making sure the ambulance crew had a clear path, Anderson said. Borgen made sure the elevator was waiting on the right floor in case that was needed to move the student.

“You’re thinking hurry up,” she said. “Get the AED, do as much as you can until the emergency personnel show up.”

After being brought to Red Wing Fairview Medical Center, the student was again stabilized before being transported to St. Marys Hospital in Rochester, Klassen said.

He was put into a medically induced coma, from which he awoke Wednesday. The student wasn’t on any medications and had no prior medical history, Klassen said, so what caused him to go into cardiac arrest is a mystery.

“They haven’t totally figured out what’s going on yet,” she said.

And while it’s hard to say whether the student will make a full recovery, she did add that a CT scan of his head looked normal, his vitals were good and that he was breathing on his own.

“Those are all good steps toward recovery,” Klassen said.

Currently, there is at least one AED in all school buildings — including the ice arenas — except for Jefferson School and Tower View Alternative High School. Klassen said AEDs for those two buildings have been ordered.