Cherokee High School (NJ) Athletic Trainers Save a Life

Cherokee High School (Marlton, New Jersey) athletic trainers, Jeff Wood and Karen Hengst, rose to the challenge and used their professional education and training to help save a life of a teacher at their school. On February 17, 2017, during a faculty in-service, a call was placed over the hand-held radio, urgently asking for the school nurse and to the Performing Arts Center. Jeff and Karen were at basketball practice and heard the call. Not knowing the circumstances, they prepared for the worst and reported to the scene with the automated external defibrillator and emergency medical kit. “No details were given”, said Wood but he said he could tell from the tone of voice over the radio that is was serious.  The slumped victim was seated in the middle of a row in the back of the large 1200 set facility. It was quickly assessed that the victim was not breathing and had no pulse. With the assistance of two Cherokee  paraprofessionals, Gary Denelsbeck (retired Evesham Police officer and EMT) and Felicia Progar (registered nurse), the victim was moved to the aisle and Delensbeck began check compressions, Wood and Hengest prepared the one way valve mask and AED. After one cycle of compressions the AED pads were put in place and a shock was delivered. As the next cycle of chest compressions began the teacher aroused, pulse returned and she began breathing. She was placed in the recovery position and vital signs monitored until EMS and paramedics arrived. Through a previously implanted device, the emergency room doctors noted that defibrillation began within 3 minutes of the cardiac arrest. This rapid recognition, response and AED probably saved her life. The teacher has fully recovered and has returned to work at Cherokee High School.  “The ability to save someone’s life as a professional health care provider is the ultimate reward in our profession,” said Wood. “We train for emergencies and scenarios that require emergency action plan but what happened on February 17th was a complete team effort by so many people stepping up to handle the sudden cardiac arrest to a fellow faculty member.”  “Emergencies are rarely predictable, but  when they do occur, a quick, controlled response can make the difference. Athletic trainers provide an invaluable service to schools and industrial settings.When emergency situations arise, ATs are educated healthcare professionals prepared to respond. This is a great example of how the education and skill set of an athletic trainer coupled with flawless execution of an emergency action plan and use of an AED can save lives,” said Christina Emrich, President of the Athletic Trainers Society of New Jersey. “I am proud of the steps taken by athletic trainers, Jeff Wood and Karen Hengst as highly qualified trained healthcare providers whom, not only provide care to their athletes every, day but are willing to go above and beyond for their staff as well. We at the ATSNJ applaud their efforts to keep athletes safe because ‘your protection is our priority’.”For more information on the ATSNJ, please visit our website at You can also visit the ATSNJ on Facebook (ATSNJ’s New Jersey Sports Safety), Twitter (@NJSportSafety) and Instagram (@ATSNJ).