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March 1, 2011

SHS junior cheats death, thanks to school nurse, SCFR

When Alex Robinson’s heart stopped in the middle of math class, only minutes remained to save him

Live Oak — A Suwannee High School junior appears to have beaten the odds

after doctors told his loved ones he likely wouldn’t survive after his heart stopped Friday in class.

Alex Robinson plays football, basketball and runs track at SHS. His heart was stopped for about 7 minutes, Suwannee County Fire/Rescue Chief Charlie Conner said.

Nonetheless, it’s a story that appears to have ended well.

Bulldog football coach Willie Spears told the Democrat Monday morning that Robinson was sitting up in his hospital bed, eating breakfast and talking.

“Initially it was really, really bad,” Spears said. “Doctors thought his brain didn’t get enough oxygen. They told his great- grandma there was less than a 25 percent chance he would make it through the night.”
Robinson has a medical condition that causes his heart to skip every fifth beat or so. Spears said Robinson ran in a track meet Thursday and the next day his heart was skipping every other beat. Later that afternoon, toward the end of his fourth period math class, Robinson’s heart stopped.

“He was sitting in his chair when he slumped over,” said SHS nurse Kathy Sellgren.

Sellgren jumped into action after two female students ran and got her, telling her that Alex was in trouble.

She said the classroom he was in was “a big factor” in his survival since it was just three doors down from hers.

“I immediately knew this kid was in deep, deep trouble,” she said upon entering the classroom. “I knew he was gone from this world. The whole time I was like, ‘Breathe Alex, breathe.’”

Sellgren said she told all the students, with the exception of two she might need for assistance, to leave the classroom. She immediately called by radio for administrative help.

She said one student had already called 911 from his cell phone.

Sellgren said that she immediately began CPR and was putting the defibrillator paddles on Robinson when rescue workers from SCFR arrived.

“They were like a mirage in the dessert,” she said. “I could only do what I could do. I was definitely worried that he was not going to recover.”

SCFR personnel got Robinson’s heart beating again. With their and Sellgren’s life saving efforts, Robinson is alive today.

SCFR Supervisor Robert Eyer called Robinson’s survival a team effort.

“It was great, any time that you have someone where their heart stops and it gets started again and they start breathing, it’s a good day,” he said.

Eyer said he is surprised but pleased that Robinson is doing so well.

EMT Dave Smith said he and another SCFR rescue worker were buying groceries for the evening meal when the call came in from dispatch. He said they were first on scene.

“We get there and was very distraught to see a young man like that in cardiac arrest,” he said. “I was very pleased he began to respond to our interventions.”

Sellgren said she’s just thankful to have had the training to help save his life.

“He’s one of the nicest students, he’s always polite and has a great demeanor,” said Sellgren. “I feel grateful to have had the opportunity to have a part in saving his life and giving him a second chance at life.”

The other heroes of that day were SCFR firefighter/paramedics Bobby Garbett, Randy Hill, Shawn Hillengas, Jonathan Mieres and Kenny Willis.

Superintendent of Schools Jerry Scarborough thanked all those involved.

“First of all Alex is very fortunate to have so many people praying for him,” he said. “And the response team there at SHS and to Mrs. Kathy Sellgren our nurse, the paramedics, EMTs and doctors at shands for all they did in acting in the best interest of Alex. We just hope nothing like this ever happens again.”

SHS basketball coach Jeremy Ulmer couldn’t say enough nice things about Robinson.

“He’s a great kid with a great work ethic on the court, certainly one of the best I’ve ever seen. I’ve never had a problem with him,” he said.

Margaret Wooley, school health services, said that she was proud of Sellgren.

“Kathy did what all our school nurses can and will do; she performed life saving measures under extreme pressure,” Wooley wrote in an email. “And, she did it as one bystander described ‘like it was just so natural, as it it was second nature.’”

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