Assistant Wrestling Coach Steven Powell was demonstrating jump rope for Easton Area High School students in the wrestling room of the school. Able to jump 100 times in a mere 30 seconds, the 67-year-old joked to the students, “If I collapse, it’s not because I’m fat, old, and out of shape!” When Coach Powell fell to the mat a moment later, students initially thought he was kidding.

Help on scene

Luckily for Coach Powell, there were four Athletic Trainers at Easton that day. Andrew Neeld, Rochelle Gilbert, Tyler Countess, and Julia LoBasso, of St. Luke’s Hospital, were at the school assisting student athletes.

Andrew was helping a student in the training room just one floor above the wresting room when a student rushed in and shouted, “Coach Powell is down!”

First to arrive on scene, Andrew saw that Steven’s face was turning purple. He instructed Tyler to grab the AED and for District Athletic Trainer Rochelle Gilbert to call 911. Andrew began CPR, and a moment later Tyler arrived with a ZOLL® AED Plus® defibrillator; shortly after Julia arrived to lend a hand.

After applying the AED electrode pads and waiting for the device to analyze the heart rhythm, Tyler, Julia, and Head Wrestling Coach Jody Karam took turns performing 30 cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) compressions each, with Andrew keeping count and performing two rescue breaths in between. Coach Powell also received a shock from the AED Plus.

Andrew says of the AED Plus, it was “like having a second guardian angel,” helping to keep him calm throughout the rescue.

"Teamwork makes a difference. When you have quality co-workers and a coach that’s willing to help, you can save a life."

— Andrew Neeld
Athletic Trainer, St. Luke’s University Health Network

Training matters

As Athletic Trainers, Andrew, Julia, and Tyler had undergone CPR training at St. Luke’s simulation center, which included training on a mannikin. Jody had also received CPR training. Even as a trained responder, Andrew says the real-life experience was “mentally and physically draining.”

Within minutes EMTs arrived, loaded Coach Powell into an ambulance, and transported him to St. Luke’s Anderson Campus, where he had a stent placed to unblock his artery. He later had a pacemaker installed to keep his heart beating normally.

A healthy return

From left to right: Coach Steven Powell (survivor), Bobbi Jo Powell, and rescuers Tyler Countess, Julia LoBasso, and Andrew Neeld (all athletic trainers).

After 12 weeks of cardiac rehab, Coach Powell returned to his active lifestyle. And six months later, he’s golfing, riding his bike, and back to coaching students at Easton. Before retiring, Steven was a phys-ed teacher at Easton and was Head Wrestling Coach for 35 years, coaching Easton to numerous state championships.

Steven is grateful for the timely care he received that day, noting he was lucky to be near an AED and friends ready to help. Reflecting on the experience Steven says, “It’s a win.”

Andrew noted that Easton Area High School has several AEDs and is looking to add more so all areas of the campus are covered in the event of another cardiac emergency.

He says of the incident, “Teamwork makes a difference. When you have quality co-workers and a coach that’s willing to help, you can save a life.”

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