After Saving Teen’s Life, School Nurse Pleads for Training
SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Kathy Papa, a school nurse with the Live Oak Unified School District, spreads her duties among five schools. It was luck – some may say fate or providence – that she was at Live Oak High School just after lunch on Jan. 13 when she got a call to go to English teacher Dani Fernandez’s classroom.
When she arrived, she found 14-year-old Annalese Contreras slumped in her desk in full cardiac arrest, not breathing and without a pulse. Having been a hospital registered nurse, Kathy knew immediately what was wrong and what needed to be done, but never did she think she’d come upon this situation outside the hospital without a skilled team to assist her.
Kathy immediately sprung into action, starting rescue breaths, directing the 911 call, having two classmates get Annalese out of the desk and onto the floor so compressions could be started, and sending Fernandez to get the school’s portable defibrillator, called an AED. The school had it for years, but it had never been used. After a few successions of CPR, the AED arrived and Kathy applied the pads. The second shock did the trick and Annalese’s heart was back beating. She was then stabilized by EMTs and airlifted to the Sutter Medical Center Children’s Center.
Annalese sufferedcardiac arrest due to ventricular fibrillation, an event that is often fatal.Thanks to Kathy’s heroics and the care she received at the Sutter Children’sCenter, Annalese is alive and now recuperating at home.Sutter Children’s Center pediatric electrophysiologist Oleg Kovalenko,M.D., pinpointed her ventricular arrhythmia and Annalese had a defibrillatorcalled an ICD implanted by Sutter electrophysiologist Jonathan Man, M.D., toshock her heart into the correct rhythm when it detects irregular heartbeats.
“Cardiac arrest is an electrical abnormality in the heart. It leads to sudden death in many, many cases and leads to 2,000 deaths a year in children,” said Dr. Kovalenko, Sutter Medical Center’s medical director of pediatric electrophysiology. “In cardiac arrest, there’s no blood flow to your brain and your organs, and the longer a patient stays in this condition, the less chance of survival,” he said, noting that usually that’s just three to five minutes. “The only way to fix it is to shock.”
Thankfully,Annalese received those shocks within a few minutes. For her efforts, Papareceived a Heartsaver Hero Award from the American Heart Association. The AHAand Sutter Medical Center physicians urged all schools to have an AED on-siteand train staff on CPR and how to use the defibrillator. Papa started workingat the school district in 2019 and already had classes set up to train staff onboth, and this event has made it even more important in the staff’s eyes.
As Dan Falco,co-medical director of the Sutter Medical Center Children’s Center said, “Thatschool nurse is the real hero here.” However, Papa was quick to point out thatthe quick action on the part of Fernandez and the two classmates got Annaleseout of the desk are heroes, too.
Annalese’s parentsare so grateful to the school and Sutter Children’s Center staff for savingtheir daughter’s life that they traveled from Live Oak to the hospital to thankthem personally and shared their thanks publicly through the media.
“I’d just like to give thanks to everybody – the school, the nurse, the emergency room, the ambulance, the helicopter, the EMS and the hospital – because if it wasn’t for all of them, my daughter wouldn’t be here today,” said Annalese’s father, Felipe Contreras. “I consider all you guys heroes.”
As for Papa, she had a plea: “I want the public to be aware that anyone can save a life, and it just takes a day of training or even just a few hours so that you know what to do in case of an emergency. And,” she said, holding up a portable AED, “this awesome device saves lives. And we all can see that that has happened.”
Here is a video of this story from Fox 40 in Sacramento.