Heroes at Atkins High School help save soccer player’s life

Real Heroes

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (WGHP) — To JV coach Dylan Collier, the game of soccer is about more than winning.

“It’s all about building a family, building a team,” Collier said. “Truly just building their character as a high school student.”

What happened on March 2, 2021, proves that. On this practice — the first in about a month — the Atkins JV team was warming up on the baseball field, including 17-year-old Pablo Hortal.

“Coach told us to run two laps around the field, and the first lap I felt fine,” Pablo recalled. “Halfway through the second lap, I got really tired and I had to walk, and then I got really light-headed and had to put my head between my knees.”

Collier was across the field setting up a drill when someone on the team told him a player was down. He soon realized Pablo wasn’t breathing.

“I just kind of acted at that point,” Collier said. “It was all muscle memory from my training.”

Collier started doing chest compressions as one of Pablo’s teammates called 911, another got in touch with Pablo’s mom, Laura, and the others ran to get Certified Athletic Trainer Katie Hanes-Romano and HPU Athletic Training Student Johnathon Friar. Since 2016, Wake Forest Baptist Health has partnered with Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools to provide certified athletic trainers, like Hanes-Romano, at every high school in the school system.

“I started running and was met by a varsity player who said ‘you should hurry, he’s not breathing’ which is when I turned back to Johnathon and said ‘grab my phone and the AED’ and kept running,” Hanes-Romano said.

AED stands for automatic external defibrillator and the devices are used to revive someone from sudden cardiac arrest.

Each middle and high school in the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County school system has more than one.

“We got the pads put on him, let it analyze his rhythm, it advised a shock, so we delivered the shock,” Hanes-Romano said. “And then I immediately started back into compressions and about halfway through the compressions, I heard sirens and I’ve never been more happy to hear sirens in my entire life.”

EMS took over and Pablo regained consciousness.

“The next thing I remember was me on the floor shirtless, with a medical kit around me and a guy to my right saying I gave him a scare because my heart stopped,” Pablo said.

Everyone on the field that day was stunned and amazed.

“They put the 12-lead ECG on him and had him speaking before they put him on the gurney,” Hanes-Romano said. “It was a miraculous thing to watch from where we started to where we finished.”

Laura Hortal, Pablo’s mom, got there shortly after EMS.

“I work in education and we have all these systems, but you think you’ll never use them. But they had a system and the system works,” Hortal said.

Pablo spent seven days at Brenner Children’s Hospital undergoing testing and monitoring with his parents at his side. The theory, which is supported by the MRI, is that Pablo had a virus in the weeks leading up to this episode and it caused myocarditis, which is inflammation of the heart muscle.

While they still don’t know definitively what caused Pablo’s heart to stop, they’re grateful for the training, the AED and the people who got it going again.

“I don’t think it was caused by me exercising too hard, so it really could’ve happened anywhere,” Pablo said. “It just happened at the exact right place at the exact right time surrounded by the right people.

As a result of Pablo’s experience, the family is on a mission to spread awareness about the importance of AEDs in schools and public settings.

Learn more here.

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