Tuesday, March 25, 2003

School Nurse, Defibrillator Helps Save Teacher's Life

Man Says He Was In Right Place At Right Time

March 25, 2003

DEDHAM, Mass. -- A substitute teacher at Dedham High School suffered cardiac arrest last week as he prepared to begin a tutoring session.

NewsCenter 5's Heather Unruh reported that it was an ordinary day at Dedham High that became extraordinary, when substitute teacher Joe Grasso suffered cardiac arrest. Nurse Gail Kelley found him on his side.

"(He was) clearly not breathing. We rolled him over and he had no pulse," Kelley said.

Kelley started CPR while the principal grabbed the school's new portable defibrillator. Within minutes, she had shocked his heart back to normal rhythm.

"By the time he left here, his coloring was back, he was answering questions," Kelley said.

"I passed out and then I woke up. I don't remember anything else," Grasso said.

Grasso, 52, may not remember Kelley's heroics, but he knows he nearly suffered the same fate as his brother who died of a heart attack last month.

"If it happened at home, if it happened on the way to school, if it happened at another school -- I might not be here now," Grasso said. "I was at the right place at the right time."

Doctors said that defibrillators are safe and easy to use. You attach electrodes, and the machine tells you if a shock is needed.

"There is no question that this saved Mr. Grasso's life. If he had been in a situation where it was not available in a timely fashion as it was at Dedham High School, we wouldn't be celebrating his health -- we'd be memorializing his life," Brigham and Women's Hospital Dr. Charles Pozner said.

"It felt good putting it on the wall, but you hope you never have to use it. And yet we used it. It did absolutely exactly what it was supposed to do, and it saved his life," Kelley said.

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