The shocking collapse of a teen on a school volleyball court and the staff’s seemingly flawless response point out an important need in schools and even churches: to have access to automated external defibrillators—and to know how to use them.
Claire Crawford, a 17-year-old senior at Loganville (Georgia) Christian Academy, was playing in a volleyball match on Oct. 13 last year when she collapsed in cardiac arrest.
Adults rushed to her aid, giving Claire CPR, calling 911, and running to grab one of the four AEDs mounted strategically throughout the school. Four and a half minutes after she went into cardiac arrest, Claire, who previously had no pulse, was brought back to life with the AED, and 11 minutes after her collapse, paramedics arrived.
“We responded within seconds and she had no heartbeat,” says Julie Sirmans, dean of the lower school (preschool through fifth grade) at Loganville Christian Academy. “I set up the AED and a shock was given. Within a couple of minutes, Claire began to show signs of life again.”
Julie points out, “The AED was needed in order to bring her back to life.” And doctors agree, saying that the use of the AED saved Claire’s life.
Claire’s parents, Eric and Lisa Crawford, recorded the entire incident, as Eric had set up a camera on a tripod to record the game.
“I was sitting at the scorers table keeping score for the game and I just heard a loud thud,” Eric says. He says he can’t describe the fear going through his mind when his daughter collapsed. “You had a feeling of helplessness. There were people there immediately, springing into action, going to work.”
In February, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta edited and released the video Eric shot, showing Claire’s collapse and amazing rescue, in an effort during American Heart Month to encourage people to become CPR and AED certified. “You could save a life,” the clinic says.
CPR does indeed save lives, says the American Heart Association: “When a teen or adult has a sudden cardiac arrest, survival depends on immediately receiving CPR from someone nearby, especially since survival rates drop as much as 10% for every minute that goes by without intervention.”
Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta educates school systems and doctors about pediatric sudden cardiac arrest and teaches them how to respond through its endeavor called Project S.A.V.E. One of the schools it helped train in AED usage was Loganville Christian Academy back in 2006. That year, the school installed its first AED. On Oct. 13, the school staff responded instinctively, thanks to the training they received and the unannounced “code blue” drills they went through, Julie told 10News.
“Since December 2007,” reports Project S.A.V.E., “there have been 66 lives saved in Georgia—66 people (33 students and 33 adults) who are alive today because their school personnel were prepared and had practiced their medical emergency response.”
In the video, Project S.A.V.E. asks, “What if it happened in your school? Or your gym? Or in your neighborhood?”
Claire, whose family has no history of cardiac problems, underwent triple bypass surgery and is now doing well.
“It is so obvious that God is not finished with Claire’s work on earth,” says Deb Hindal, Claire’s great-aunt, whose husband, Chris, is director of Regular Baptist International.
Lisa Crawford says, “We know that God created her and that He knew about this moment before it happened. And He knew who would be here and what the outcome would be and what we would be responsible to do going forward—share her story.”
Claire now sees the extreme importance of AEDs in public places both in the US and abroad. Just weeks before her volleyball match, Claire went on missions trips to Haiti and Honduras. Her heart could have stopped any time and in any place, but in God’s plan, when her heart did stop, she was in a location with an AED nearby.
Julie Sirmans adds that if Claire’s heart had stopped just 24 hours prior to the volleyball game, sadly, she may not have been revived. “That Monday night,” Julie says, “just 24 hours before it all happened, the girls had been playing an away game at another school. That school had an AED near its gym, but that school did not have working batteries in that AED. Take a minute to let that sink in. . . . If Claire had suffered sudden cardiac arrest just 24 hours prior, there’s no telling how long it would have taken to find replacement batteries. Those batteries would have meant the difference between life and death.”
Through GoFundMe, Claire is raising funds to donate AEDs (each one costing about $1,300) to schools and other public areas. “The first one,” she says, “will go back to my school for teams traveling to other schools!”
In addition, a handmade jewelry business called The Key to Missions is helping Claire give three AEDs to Mission of Hope, a Christian organization in Haiti that Claire visited. On The Key to Missions Etsy shop are special “HEART” and “LOVE” key necklaces available for purchase during the month of February, with all proceeds going to fund Claire’s project.
Melissa Meyer is associate editor for Regular Baptist Press.