Bexley school officials are emphasizing the importance of having automated external defibrillators in schools after two recent incidents in which the devices saved lives.

Bexley school officials are emphasizing the importance of having automated external defibrillators in schools after two recent incidents in which the devices saved lives.

St. Charles Preparatory School, 2010 E. Broad St., hosted a March 14 assembly to publicly recognize students, faculty and emergency medical personnel whose quick responses helped save the life of Spanish teacher James Pena.

The Bexley City School District recently announced that more AEDs will be installed in its schools after a recent incident in which Eric Acton, a Cassingham Elementary School sixth-grade teacher and cross country team head coach, and David Leland, a Bexley High School counselor and coach, used an AED to assist another adult who collapsed during a basketball game in the Bexley Middle School gym.

During the St. Charles assembly, Principal James Lower and Dr. Vincent Pompili of the Ohio State University Medical Center presented plaques to students, faculty and Columbus Division of Fire personnel for acting quickly to save Pena's life.

On Feb. 11, Pena, 65, collapsed in sudden cardiac arrest during a Spanish II class for juniors and seniors. The students called for help and cleared away desks and tables so responders could assist Pena. St. Charles school nurse Midge Cull performed CPR and used an AED to help revive Pena.

"In just those matter of moments, so many responded to something that would be so dramatic and something they'll remember for the rest of their lives," Lower said. "Here at St. Charles, we have a phrase: 'We are our brother's keeper.' And these people that day were exactly that. They took care of somebody who needed their care and responded immediately."

Minutes after the students and Cull acted to revive Pena, emergency medical personnel transported him to nearby Ohio State University Hospital East, where Pompili and his team administered further care in the hospital's heart catheterization lab.

"We really do believe this is a teachable moment in pre-hospital care for cardiac arrest," Pompili, director of Ohio State's Interventional Cardiovascular Medicine, told St. Charles students, parents and staff gathered at the assembly. "This is a celebration for Mr. Pena and his wife, but it is also such a learning opportunity ... to celebrate and really remember all the important things that you've done."

Pena said he's grateful for the life-saving response of St. Charles students and staff and emergency medical personnel, but his memory of the incident is vague.

"It's like that day never existed," he said. "It's just one of those very eerie things. Like it never happened."

In a similar incident during an adult basketball game at Bexley Middle School earlier this winter, Acton and Leland called on their AED and CPR training to help a teammate who had collapsed.

All Bexley athletic coaches receive first aid training every other year and are certified in CPR. Part of that training includes the operation of the district's AEDs. In addition, all Bexley staff members participate in safety drills and learn how to use the AEDs that were installed several years ago in various locations around the three district buildings. The AEDs include illustrations and step-by-step prompts that direct even a novice how to use them.

After Acton's teammate collapsed, Acton used an AED to shock the player's heart back into a regular rhythm and he began breathing again. The emergency medical crew that arrived on the scene told the teammates the AED had saved the man's life, Acton said.

"I was confident with the AED," he said. "And the training embedded a message in my brain: 'You can't mess up with the AED.' "

After the incident, Bexley City Schools Business Manager John Eikenberry consulted with school district nurses to measure the need for additional AED devices and to figure out where to install them. The district has announced plans to place new AEDs in the five gyms around Bexley schools.