When Dyer County Sheriff Jeff Box and Dyer County Schools Superintendent Dr. Dwight Hedge bolstered school security in the wake of the tragic school shooting in Newtown, Conn., they hoped the extra help would not be needed.
But that extra manpower proved to be a lifesaver for Northview Middle School student Nolan Gregory, who was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy in March.
"We had a student go into cardiac arrest today at Northview Middle School," said Hedge. "The student was resuscitated, transported, and airlifted to LeBonheur. Our understanding is that he is stable. Our people did a fantastic job."
Gregory benefited from the quick thinking of Northview Middle School Principal Tony Jones, Northview school nurse Denise Bargery and Sgt. Heath Walker of the Dyer County Sheriff's Office.
"I want everybody to know how thankful I am for Denise Bargery, Mr. Jones and Heath Walker," said Nolan's mother, Christi Gregory. "God put those people there at the right time. Heath Walker was actually there because of the threats that were going on, which was a godsend because he was an EMT. He and Mr. Jones started CPR and Denise came in with the defibrillator and shocked him three times and got him back."
Walker was at Northview as part of the sheriff's department's increased visibility at the county schools this week. He was assigned to Northview in the morning and to Three Oaks Middle School after the lunch hour.
Walker said he was in the cafeteria when he noticed several students run out of a nearby classroom. When school personnel hurried in, Walker joined them. Together, the trained professionals saved Nolan's life with the help of an A.E.D., or automated external defibrillator.
"I am glad we had Walker assigned to Northview this morning," said Box. "I am proud he used his professional training to respond to the situation. He has always gone well above the call of duty - in his job performance now, and as an EMT. He was always a top-rated EMT."
Nolan's heart condition was discovered when he went to the doctor for a sinus infection last spring. When a murmur was detected, his physician ordered more tests and discovered a genetic disorder. The disorder causes a thickening of the heart muscle that often leads to cardiac arrest.
Gregory said, many times, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy goes undetected until young athletes suffer a cardiac arrest in the midst of physical exertion. Nolan was not participating in a physical activity at the time he collapsed.
Gregory credits communication with Bargery as another factor that saved her son's life.
"Denise was fully aware of Nolan's condition and knew exactly what to do," said Gregory. "So when he passed out, she knew to take action."
Gregory said her son is in currently in stable condition. He is sedated and resting as his physicians plan further tests.
"We still have a lot of unanswered questions, but his heart is beating," said Gregory. "I am thankful to all of them for responding as quickly as they did and for saving my child's life. And I am thankful for everybody in the whole school system for showing their support. They are definitely my angels."
"An event like this emphasizes the training and preparations we had in place," said Hedge. "And the result is a good Christmas present for everybody."