One Friday evening, Arrowhead High School students Josh Staus and Ty Wall were both cheering on their team from the student section of the bleachers, along with a couple hundred other spectators. The school’s varsity team was defending its top spot against number two Catholic Memorial in the Classic Eight Conference in Hartland, Wisconsin.
The gymnasium was packed with players, students, parents, and community members. The two teams were well matched, and the score was close. Late in the third quarter, however, it became apparent that the score and the skills displayed on the court would be of least importance to those in attendance that evening. That night, everyone in the gym would be pulling for a student who never even set foot on the basketball court.
Game play unexpectedly stops
During the second half of the game, at 8:15 p.m., Josh felt someone push him from behind and heard a thud. “I looked back and saw Ty on the bleacher behind me,” Josh recalls. Ty was lying face down under the bleacher seat. “A couple of friends and I flipped him over and saw that he was nonresponsive and unconscious.” Josh immediately ran down the stairs to the court level to notify his dad, Jeff Staus, a physical education teacher at Arrowhead and that evening’s game manager. “There’s someone down and you need to go up there,” Josh told his dad in a tone his father had never heard him use.
Response turns fear into hope
Jeff, along with athletic trainer Chyla Bechtel and supervisor Sam Leo, hustled up the bleachers behind Josh. Jeff and the others assessed the situation and asked colleague Liz Arsnow to call 911 while Josh began clearing students from the area closest to Ty.
Pediatric emergency physician Greg Rebella was in the stands to watch a friend’s son play, and Swallow School principal Melissa Thompson was in attendance to cheer on former students. They both noticed unusual activity in the student section of the bleachers and quickly made their way to Ty while Jeff ran to the lobby to grab one of the school’s three ZOLL® automated external defibrillators (AEDs). He was back in seconds.
I looked back and saw Ty on the bleacher behind me. A couple of friends and I flipped him over and saw that he was nonresponsive and unconscious.Josh Staus
student and SCA rescuer
The group of rescuers gently lifted Ty out from under the bleacher and onto the bench seat. He was displaying signs of agonal breathing, didn’t have a palpable pulse, and was unconscious. School nurse Danielle Catarozzoli and Deb Sexton, another nurse watching the game, worked with other rescuers to support Ty and keep him from falling off the bench. Rescuers suspected sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) and when Greg asked for an AED, Chyla had it in hand. She and Greg worked together to apply the electrodes and power on the ZOLL Powerheart® G5 defibrillator.
Within seconds, the AED analyzed Ty’s heart and recommended a shock. After the AED delivered a defibrillating shock, rescuers reassessed Ty’s condition. They noticed his color was improving, and his breathing and pulse were normal. Ty even opened his eyes and asked what happened before EMTs arrived. “I’d estimate the time from collapse to defibrillation was about 2 to 3 minutes,” recalls Greg.
Exemplary teamwork on and off the court
The bystanders — colleagues, parents, and community members — who stepped in to help Ty worked together with focus and concentration that evening. After calling 911, Liz began evacuating students from the bleachers nearest to Ty, while Melissa and Coach Mike Ray started ushering spectators out of the gymnasium. The basketball teams were sent to their respective locker rooms and officials postponed the remainder of the game. Coach Chris Herriot located Ty’s mom, then helped Ryan Dow clear a path for EMTs and waited to guide them into the gym.
Ty Wall, SCA survivor
EMTs transported Ty to a local hospital, where he described a loss of focus in his vision and dizziness just before he passed out. Doctors prescribed a ZOLL LifeVest® wearable defibrillator until they could schedule him for an implantable cardioverterdefibrillator (ICD), a device that can help protect Ty from future heart rhythm irregularities.
Game play resumed the following morning, when the Arrowhead Warhawks held onto their number one standing in the conference. But it was clear that the winning team was a group of courageous bystanders who saw someone in distress and didn’t hesitate to step in to help.