13-Year-Old Saves Mother's Life--to the Tune of Stayin' Alive

13-Year-Old Saves Mother's Life--to the Tune of Stayin' Alive

NORTHAMPTON, MA - As he performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation on his mother, 13-year-old George Hamilton says he was driven by a Bee Gees song.

"I was kinda going, 'Stayin' alive, Stayin' alive,'" he said recently, mimicking the compressions he delivered to the beat of the 1977 disco classic.

The teen's efforts, paramedics say, helped save Claire Hamilton, who suffered sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) recently.

"I think it's really amazing that he had the presence of mind to do a quick check, realize it wasn't working, call 911 and follow their directions," said Claire. "I am really proud of him."

Amherst Fire Chief Walter "Tim" Nelson called the eighth-grader's effort's "critical. "Without him it falls apart because he was the only one there," Nelson said.

Two weeks ago, mother and son had been settled on their couch for their weekly movie night. They had ordered pizza from Antonio's - two slices, one steak and bacon, another of tortellini and pesto - and began to watch "Bad Teacher" starring Cameron Diaz.

Claire Hamilton, a professor of early childhood education at the University of Massachusetts, thought the movie was "wildly inappropriate." George was enjoying it.

And then the trouble started. It was around 10 p.m. when George noticed there was something wrong with his mother.

She turned purple and arched her back outward, he said. She couldn't speak and began to shake.

George, who was alone with Claire, did the first thing that came to mind: He tried to perform CPR. Then he dialed 911.

In the tape of his conversation with dispatcher Scott Del Pozzo, George can be heard obediently carrying out instructions: lying his mother flat, tilting her head slightly back, making sure nothing is obstructing her airway, checking to see if she is breathing. Though on the verge of tears, the teen is unfailingly polite to Del Pozzo, who he frequently calls "officer."

"I didn't keep calm. I got pretty upset," George said. "I thought she was going to die."

In all, around five minutes passed before the first police officers came through the door. By chance, the entire department had completed its CPR training earlier in the week, Nelson said.

They delivered an electric shock with a defibrillator to jump start Claire Hamilton's heart. She was first taken to Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton, then Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, where she had an internal defibrillator installed.

Later, when the commotion had died down and the fear had passed, George realized that he had seen CPR performed to the disco beat of "Stayin' Alive" once before, which seems to explain why it popped into his head.

"I saw the episode of 'The Office' when they are doing CPR to the beat of the Bee Gees," George said of the hit NBC television show. "Michael's going too fast, then Andy gets really into it and everyone just starts dancing."

When he told his mother she first thought it must be a joke. Then she looked it up on the Internet.

The doctors are still unsure what actually happened to Claire Hamilton. At 52, she has no previous health problems, she said, noting that she lives a healthy life and enjoys hiking and skiing, among other activities.

The incident was initially described as some form of cardiac arrest, she said, but when she left the hospital last week, the discharge papers said "no diagnosis." She said she is hoping a series of follow-up medical appointments will provide an explanation.

She said she is continuing to get better, but her activities are limited. She's not allowed to walk up stairs or pick up anything over 10 pounds.

Meanwhile, she said, she is immensely proud of her son. After she was rushed to the hospital, George called longtime family friends for a place to stay. He went to school at Amherst Regional Middle School the whole week his mother was in the hospital, but visited whenever he could.

"I think it's hard for anyone to deal with a situation like that, especially for a kid," Claire Hamilton said.

Nelson said the incident amounts to a minor miracle.

"The bottom line is that the system worked," he said. "Everyone, the police, the dispatcher, my guys, George, everyone did their job."

"This is a teachable moment for adults, too," he added. "It's not tough to use CPR...And this kid saved his mother's life."

SOURCE: Daily Hampshire Gazette 

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