Assistant Principal Saves Student During Cardiac Arrest

ATLANTA -- Bernardo Soto, 11, is back in class after suffering sudden cardiac arrest in a school hallway.

His assistant principal at Chestnut Log Middle School in Douglas County helped save his life with quick thinking, good training and the right equipment.

“This was a divine moment and divine timing,”said Assistant Principal Greg Williams. “I feel great every time I see him. It was a meant-to-be moment.”

Soto, a sixth-grader, had no idea his heart was in trouble until he collapsed on September 26 on his way to first period.

“Do you remember waking up and feeling funny that day?” 11Alive’s Jennifer Leslie asked Soto.

“Yes,” he replied.

It turned out he was suffering from sudden cardiac arrest, which is usually deadly.

“I had not doubt we were gonna get Bernardo through this,” Williams said. “No doubt.”

Williams rushed to Soto’s side when he found out he was in trouble.

“When we rolled him over, he took his last breath,” Williams said.

Williams immediately began CPR and called for the school's automated external defibrillator -- commonly called an A.E.D. With the help of four of the school's coaches -- Merrick Sims, Brad Jackson, Tim Mantooth and Clarence Green -- Williams got Soto hooked up to the A.E.D., which said Soto required a shock to get his heart back in action.

“As soon as the shock wave went off, he started gasping for another breath,” Williams said. “And I was able to find a pulse coming.”

Williams knew what to do in part because of a program called Project S.A.V.E., which is run by Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

“The problem with sudden cardiac arrest is that you have only three to five minutes,” said Alison Ellison, project coordinator.

Ellison said the goal is to get A.E.D. devices in every school in Georgia, with administrators and staff trained to handle emergencies.

“It means they have everything in place to have the best chance of saving a life,”Allison said.

Soto is the first student saved since Project S.A.V.E. (Sudden cardiac death, Awareness, Vision for prevention, Education) started four years ago.

When asked about Mr. Williams” actions, Soto said, “I feel happy that he did that for me.”

At Children's Sibley Heart Center, Soto was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM). He now has a defibrillator implanted in his body, and his prognosis is very good.

On the same day that Bernardo collapsed, another student at a private school in Troup county also suffered sudden cardiac arrest.

Jenna Brown, a 14-year-old student at LaFayette Christian School, collapsed at the Homecoming pep rally. A bystander immediately began CPR while a student called 9-1-1.

The CPR efforts saved Brown’s life. Brown had previously been treated for Ebstein's Anomaly, a heart defect. She has also undergone defibrillator placement, as well as replacement of one of her heart valves. She was recently discharged from Children's Sibley Heart Center.

-Jennifer Soto

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The mission of the Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) Foundation is to prevent death and disability from sudden cardiac arrest. The vision of the SCA Foundation is to increase awareness about sudden cardiac arrest and influence attitudinal and behavioral changes that will reduce mortality and morbidity from SCA.

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