Fourteen-year-old Zach Hayden of North, died on Friday, Nov. 16, but thanks to quick-thinking staff at Thomas Hunter Middle School in Mathews, he was brought back to life.
Zach was doing pull-ups in the school gymnasium when he fell to the floor unconscious. He remembers nothing about it—not the fall or the pull-ups or even walking into the gym. The last thing he recalls is getting cologne out of his book bag in the hallway because he wanted to smell good. The reason he knows about the pull-ups is because his friend Michael Garrett told him.
Coach James "Hutch" Hutcheson, the school’s physical education instructor, said he was recording the pull-up scores for some of the students when he heard a thump. He couldn’t see what caused it until students ran over and shouted that Zach had fallen and needed help.
Zach wasn’t breathing when Hutcheson got to his side, but he had a pulse, so the coach quickly administered a couple of breaths and called for students to go get the school nurse. When he checked for a pulse a second time, there was none, so he began alternating compressions and breaths.
Zach’s skin was blue when school nurse Mindy Brown got to the gym. She took over compressions, and she and Hutcheson continued performing CPR until assistant principal Laurel Byrd arrived with the school’s AED, or automated external defibrillator.
Brown quickly attached the wires to Zach’s chest, stood back, and let the machine go to work. It shocked Zach, restoring his pulse and respirations. By then the rescue squad had arrived, and a rescue helicopter wasn’t far behind. Zach was flown to Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters in Norfolk.
Zach’s grandmother, Susan Smith, was at work at Harrow’s Home Center in Middlesex when she got the call that Zach had fallen in PE and was unresponsive.
Smith said, "I sat down in a chair and started crying and said, ‘please don’t tell me that.’"
Once at CHKD, Smith learned that Zach was alive, but he had been placed in an induced coma. When he awoke on his third day in the hospital, Zach didn’t notice the doctors and nurses; the only person he saw was his grandmother. "It made me feel good," he said.
Tests of all kinds were run on Zach, but doctors couldn’t reproduce Zach’s problem or determine what had happened to him. He had seemed perfectly healthy before the incident, and he seemed perfectly healthy afterward. It wasn’t until the AED manufacturer sent the results of the defibrillation event that Zach’s doctor determined that a life-threatening irregular heartbeat had caused all the trouble.
Smith said Zach’s doctors told her that people usually die from the arrhythmia Zach experienced, and that she should thank the school staff who performed CPR because "they did everything perfectly," she said.
Neither Hutcheson nor Brown had ever performed CPR before, but they didn’t hesitate when it was needed. Hutcheson was afraid that, as often happens with CPR, he might have broken some of Zach’s ribs because when the teenager began to breathe again, blood came out of his mouth.