|Every member of the Code Blue team at Becton Regional High School played a key role in saving the contractor’s life. From left: PE teacher Annette Giancaspro, athletic director Jim Bononno, PE teacher Michael Settembrino, cafeteria supervisor Reynette Segalini, paraprofessional Karyn Trause, and school nurse Linda Dumansky.
If one of your students or a colleague went into sudden cardiac arrest, would you know what to do?
Jim Bononno, a history teacher and the athletic director at Henry P. Becton Regional High School in East Rutherford, was glad that he and his school’s “Code Blue Team” knew what to do when a contractor collapsed at the school last spring.
“I was teaching a class when I heard the announcement, ‘Code Blue on the loading dock.’ I grabbed the AED near my classroom and ran to the loading dock,” he said. “I thought it was a drill.”
That announcement drew the Code Blue team—and two automatic external defibrillators (AEDs)—to the scene. The team included school nurse Linda Dumansky, physical education teachers Michael Settembrino and Annette Giancaspro, cafeteria supervisor Reynette Segalini, and paraprofessional Karyn Trause. It was Dumansky who had also brought an AED.
It wasn’t a drill. Segalini had heard a crash and had found the contractor lying on his side face down. She initiated the code blue and called 911. Dumansky quickly examined him. Settembrino looked across to Bononno confirming what the nurse had found—that the contractor wasn’t breathing.
“We had to turn him over, so I did that wrestling move where you twist his legs to flip him,” Bononno said. “He was blue.”
Bononno didn’t even recognize him as the construction supervisor with whom he had talked sports many times.
Dumansky attached the electrodes to the contractor’s chest as Bononno backed the rest of the team away and, as prompted by the AED, shocked the contractor. The AED then prompted them to initiate CPR. While Bononno did chest compressions, Dumansky used the mask that comes with the AED to perform rescue breathing.
They kept this up until an ambulance arrived and emergency medical technicians took over.
Casting a shadow over the experience was the reality that this was the second time the Code Blue team had been called into action.
“We had a fatality last year—the parent of a basketball player from an opposing team,” Bononno said. “He was found in the bathroom, but it was already too late.”
But this emergency had a happier ending: the contractor was resuscitated. Within a few hours the father of five underwent surgery to have two stents inserted and recovered. By the weekend, the contractor was home with his family.
“For everybody on the team it was like winning the lottery,” Bononno said. “If someone offered you the choice of winning a million dollars or saving a life, you’d save a life.”
The contractor recently switched jobs and his new employers ordered AEDs for their worksite because of this incident.
Plenty of moving parts doing the right thing
“There are so many moving parts; so many people have to do the right thing,” Bononno said. “Every member of the team did their part: Reynette called the office to initiate the Code Blue, Karyn called 911, and Annette went outside to direct the ambulance and traffic. We used the AED and our training, and teachers and paras kept the kids in class.”
“We were lucky that the AED was just a few yards down the hall,” Dumansky said. “If it wasn’t for the AED, he probably wouldn’t have made it.”
In addition to being CPR-certified, Bononno is a CPR instructor. He knows that even after training, most people feel somewhat insecure about their ability to do the right things in an emergency. He assures trainees that that’s a natural feeling.
“Even as an instructor, you don’t feel qualified,” he said. “You feel terrified—you wish a professional was there. But it was us. I remember saying about 100 ‘Our Fathers’ and 100 ‘Hail Marys.’”
Dumansky said that those trained in CPR should trust their training.
“Don’t worry about your CPR technique,” she said. “Anything is better than nothing.”
Janet’s law to require AEDs, rescue teams
By Sept. 1, 2014, public and private schools in New Jersey must comply with “Janet’s Law,” named for Janet Zilinski, an 11-year-old who died of sudden cardiac arrest following a cheerleading squad practice.
To learn more about Janet, visit www.janetzilinski.org/janetspage.
The law has several requirements, including:
- All K-12 schools must have an AED on site that is accessible at all times and is unlocked with signage throughout the building identifying its location. Becton has three AEDs in its building and a fourth AED that travels with athletic teams.
- At least five school employees—including all coaches and licensed athletic trainers—must hold certification in CPR and the use of an AED from the American Red Cross, the American Heart Association, or other training program recognized by the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services.
- Detailed procedures for responding to a sudden cardiac event.
The law also protects schools and their employees immune from civil liability in the acquisition and use of defibrillators pursuant to a 1999 law concerning AEDs.