LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - When you walk the halls of most schools, you’ll notice fire alarms, even fire extinguishers - things needed in case of emergency. However, most schools across the country aren’t required to have a vital piece of technology that’s proven to save lives.
On January 11, 2013, what started out as just any other school day for students at Immaculate Conception Cathedral School quickly took a turn.
Garret Richardson, an eighth-grader at the time, doesn’t remember much about that day.
“I remember saying, ‘Whoa,’ and then just waking up,” said 18-year-old Garrett Richardson.
It all happened at the foot of the Saint Therese statue on the third floor of the school. Shortly after an afternoon mass, Garrett challenged one of his classmates to a race up the stairs. Garrett suddenly collapsed near the statue.
Without a quick-thinking teacher and a life-saving device, he might not be here, according to family and teachers present that day.
“By the time the paramedics arrived, Garrett had already been shocked, resuscitated and was able to stand," said Suzy Solari, Garrett’s former teacher. “So, his recovery happened really quickly which is unusual.”
Garrett was revived by an Automatic External Defibrillator, or AED.
He was diagnosed with Long QT syndrome, a rare condition that can cause an irregular heartbeat. Long QT syndrome is estimated to affect one in 7,000 people. Most people with the condition develop symptoms before they are 20 years old. It is a relatively common cause of sudden death, along with Brugada syndrome and arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia. In the United States, it results in about 3,500 deaths a year. The condition was first clearly described in 1957.
Some there that day say it was divine order, and it’s the reason his parents return to the school every year to lay flowers near the Saint Therese statue.
“From the start when I was little, I would have to leave class to take my medicine so they all were aware, so that helped a lot," said Richardson. "For it to happen so close, they had the AEDs placed so well and to wake up in front of the St. Therese statue was really cool.”
Now part of the class of 2019, Garrett and his classmates walked those same halls on Monday, as part of the 4th annual ICCS “Panther Walk," not only to commemorate their past but to celebrate their future.
“Seeing a friend go down like that was hard, you just gotta make the good times matter,” said classmate, William Jicks.
“We immediately went to the gym and started praying, we didn’t know what was going to happen but we knew he was in good hands,” said classmate Emily Graham.
Six years later, Garrett’s family and ICCS continue to spread the message of just how important AEDs are in schools.
“The main priority to have an AED on hand is the time factor," Solari said. “We’re talking about five or six minutes that you have at most.”
Garrett and his mom are now working to make sure more schools have AEDs in the future.
Garrett plans to attend McNeese in the fall and study agriculture.