If it weren’t for a $1 million investment, Kenyati Thomeson may not be alive.
The 14-year-old Chipman Junior High student has having a typical day last month, playing soccer at lunchtime and hanging out with friends. Then when he went back to class, he collapsed.
His teacher called for help on the radio. Thomeson wasn’t breathing. That’s when his principal, Russ Taylor, and a school clerk, Lisa Hudson, rushed in with an emergency defibrillator.
The two started CPR, then placed the defibrillator paddles to Thomeson’s chest. His heart started beating again.
“I’m grateful for them to be there to save my life,” Thomeson said Tuesday during a district board meeting. “If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be here today.”
The defibrillator used was one of dozens the Bakersfield City School District purchased and installed throughout its schools in August. Training was provided to administrators and other staff members.
Thomeson hugged Taylor and Hudson Tuesday, thanking them. It’s something Taylor downplayed.
“I was in a meeting that I was happy to get out of,” Taylor joked when thinking back to when Thomeson collapsed.
“I was just a guy, and the first one there who had the training and started doing what I needed to do. My challenge to you is, you be the guy. You go get the training,” Taylor told BCSD employees. “This job is stressful enough. I thought I’d use those pads on a staff member or a visitor. Never a [14-year-old] young man as healthy as him.”
But it turned out Thomeson wasn’t healthy. He has Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, he learned. It was discovered after three separate hospital visits. First he went to Bakersfield Memorial Hospital, where it was recommended he be moved to Valley Children’s Hospital in Madera. His heart was pumping 300 beats per minute, and doctors there urged he be airlifted to see specialists at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford in Palo Alto.
“This has to be a nightmare,” Thomeson’s mother, Jocelynne, said she recalled thinking.
They placed an implantable cardioverter defibrillator, or ICD, in Thomeson’s heart in case he goes into cardiac arrest again.
Looking back on that day, Thomeson’s father, also named Kenyati, realized how lucky they were that the district had defibrillators on site – something they didn’t have a year ago.
“If y’all don’t have them, y’all need to get them because children are our future,” he said. “My son could have passed out last year, and then I’d be planning a funeral.”