Anne M. Amato
Adam Greenlee Sr., will never forget last Jan. 14. That’s the day his son, Adam, a sixth-grader at Bedford Middle School, nearly died.
But thanks to quick action by school staffers, first responders and doctors at Yale-New Haven Children’s Hospital, Adam is alive and well today, his father said during a ceremony Friday in the school auditorium.
Adam was stricken while in gym class. “He had a seizure and his head hit the floor,” the father recounted. The boy’s condition worsened and he was in “full cardiac arrest,” he added.
The school’s two nurses rushed to Adam’s aid and, as a result of regular training, cardio-pulmonary resuscitation was initiated. The principal deployed the school’s automated external defibrillator, a device that measures the heart’s rhythms and applies jolts of electricity to restore normal function.
They applied AED shocks immediately because of the severity of Adam’s condition. He regained consciousness and was stable, then rushed to Yale-New Haven Children’s Hospital where he was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.
“They did their job,” Adam Greenlee Sr. said of the nurses and first responders who administered emergency care to his son. They ensured Adam got to the “greatest doctors,” those at Yale. “They saved his life — they brought him back to life,” he said.
“From our perspective what everyone did was extraordinary,” Greenlee added. Within three weeks, Adam was back in school.
On Friday, Yale-New Haven Children’s Hospital cardiologists, Drs. Alan Friedman and Robert Elder, who both cared for Adam at the hospital, presented the school’s staff, EMTs and a Westport police officer, who was first on the scene, for the training and life-saving skills they used to save Adam’s life.
“It was one in a million,” said Elder about the condition that overcame Adam. “There were no warning signs.” But, he added, “In the worst of circumstances there was the best of outcomes.”
The elder Greenlee said his son previously had not exhibited signs of any medical problems. “The nursing staff (at Bedford) didn’t know him that well because he was never sick,” he said.
Adam’s mother, Renee, said there is no history of heart disease in the family “We didn’t think he was in a high-risk category,” she said.
Principal Adam Rosen said that every member of the Bedford Middle School staff had some non-certified training with the defibrillator prior to the incident with Adam. He said the town also arranged for full CPR and AED training gratis to every staff member. “Fifteen teachers have participated,” he said.
Rosen said every school in Westport has an AED and there are two at Staples High School. “We want to get a second one here,” he said, noting that some schools in the state lack the life-saving device.
Friedman and Elder both spoke about a growing need for AEDs in schools. Friedman said the state should “make this a priority.” The cost per unit runs about $1,500.
Young Adam is already working towards that goal, his father said. “He wants to start a foundation to get defibrillators in all schools,” his father said.