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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Close call on school field carries lessons

October 11, 2011 | 3:00 p.m. Lessons can be learned from tragic events. In Baltimore County, we are fortunate that recently lessons have emerged, but a tragedy was averted.

Fast action and the fortunate presence of expertise combined on Sept. 27 to save the life of a teenager who went into cardiac arrest on an athletic field at Catonsville High School.

Breanna Sudano, a freshman on the Perry Hall High School junior varsity field hockey team, collapsed at the conclusion of a game at Catonsville High.

Among those present who were able to respond quickly to the emergency were two coaches and three nurses — one of them a cardiac nurse. They worked as a team to provide cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

Almost unquestionably, they saved this young athlete's life. They kept her pulse going until paramedics arrived and gave the girl an electric shock from an automated external defibrillator, which boosted her heartbeat.

One nurse later told a reporter she could not have done it alone. "There is no way one person could have done CPR by themselves. It was a team effort," she said.

The incident highlighted some issues that are worth discussing.

First, while a 2006 state law requires that an AED be available at a school for sporting events, the one at Catonsville was in the school building, some distance from the field.

Second, emergency response vehicles pulled into the wrong entrance at the stadium. The school's address covers a wide area and the caller did not specify the field where the incident was happening.

It's important that emergency responders know the layout of the high schools nearby. With the addition of lights and artificial turf, and fields now in use by recreation department and interscholastic programs, the potential for injury has gone up.

In any such emergency incident, it would seem a review of protocols and response is in order. Likely, it's already under way and will serve to sharpen preparedness.

That's a good thing. After all, next time, a lifesaving team may not be on the sideline.