MIAMI COUNTY — Kerry Freeman’s life changed in a heartbeat Dec. 8.
The Dayton resident was attending a freshman basketball game at Covington High School when he went into cardiac arrest.
Quick action by those nearby, including Brian Downs, an athletic trainer for the UVMC Center for Sports Medicine, and Brandon Studebaker, an assistant basketball coach and paramedic on the Covington fire and rescue squad, made all the difference in the world for Freeman.
“I and my family owe every second of the rest of my life to these young men,” Freeman said later. “Life is the ultimate gift and these gentlemen, my personal heroes and saviors, gave this gift back to me.”
He was first treated at Upper Valley Medical Center before being transferred to Good Samaritan Hospital in Dayton.
After Freeman collapsed in the school hallway, Downs and Studebaker were summoned by school employees while someone called 911. The men found Freeman was not breathing and had no pulse.
They attached the pads of the Automated External Defibrillator (AED) Downs had grabbed on his way to assist and began CPR, Downs recalled. When EMS arrived, the men transferred care of the patient to the paramedics.
Downs’ training helped him respond to the emergency, as did the Covington High School’s Emergency Action Plan. The plan’s training allowed the coach and school staff to jump in and help, Downs said.
The training for athletic trainers includes CPR and AED certifications every two years. They also are certified CPR/AED instructors whose students include high school coaches, who also must be certified.
“This may be the biggest reason why I was able to do what I did. Having practiced and taught CPR/AED skills so repetitively made it easier to recall what needed to be done,” Downs said. “These are perishable skills that need to be practiced frequently. I also believe that in high-stress situations, rather than ‘rise to the occasion,’ we tend to fall back on our training because it is so ingrained in us.”
The school Emergency Action Plans are reviewed and practiced yearly with coaches and other staff.
For his efforts, Downswas recognized with a National Athletic Trainers’ Association Lifesaver Recognition Award in January.
This was the first time he had used the life-saving skills in his career. Downs received a master’s degree in exercise science with athletic training concentration in 2013 from Kent State University.