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Palmer turns a negative into a positive

The Aberdeen Times of Aberdeen, Idaho

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American Falls High School senior Ross Palmer knows he's lucky to be alive. He collapsed during the cool-down phase of football practice in American Falls on Tuesday, Aug. 30, of sudden death syndrome.

Palmer had no pulse, so coaches Pat Patterson, Bill Lasley, and Jason Quails started CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation). When CPR did not work, Lasley ran into the high school for the defibrillator, or AED (automated external defibrillator), which he gave to Palmer's teammate Luke Sherbourne to run back out to the field.

The coaching staff had recently had refresher training in CPR and the AED. According to emergency medical staff and athletic director Travis Hansen, CPR alone would not have brought Palmer back. Palmer received one shock from the high school's AED, and another shock in the emergency room of Power County Hospital.

Palmer was transported to Portneuf Medical Center in Pocatello, then to Salt Lake City, where he underwent surgery on Friday, Sept. 2, to place a defibrillator in his chest.

Currently, he is back in class and adjusting to life without sports. Palmer's family said they are grateful to the coaching staff for saving the boy's life.

He doesn't remember the incident.

"It's just a big blank,"

Palmer said. "I was running across the field, then I woke up in the hospital in Pocatello with three different schools in my room." Students from American Falls, Marsh Valley, and Highland High School were in the room. Palmer recalls no symptoms or incidents prior to the event.

Palmer is one of only a handful of people to have survived sudden death syndrome due to the condition being resistant to CPR. Of the young athletes that collapse, usually only those shocked with an AED survive. Often, there is no AED available.

Palmer is trying to change that statistic with his senior project, fundraising to buy enough defibrillators to accompany athletic events in all of southeast Idaho. Palmer is starting with donation cans and selling popcorn at athletic events. He is also one of the coordinators of Monster Dash, a 5k run/walk organized by AFHS students to raise money to buy defibrillators.

It's an ambitious goal. Defibrillators cost at least $ 1,200 each. And although Palmer's senior project is due in about one month, it is doubtful he will quit fundraising at that time.

About 20 to 25 cases of sudden cardiac arrest occur in competitive athletes every year in the United States, according to the American Heart Association. Most of those are young people participating in school events.

Denver Public Schools has begun installing 179 defibrillators for the treatment of sudden cardiac arrest, and there is a two year campaign, spearheaded by the Seattle Seahawks and a group of community medical providers, to install AEDs in the Seattle school district.

Meanwhile, Palmer's life is returning to normal. He had a flat defibrillator installed in his chest that is monitored at home. The device needs to be checked about every three months. The battery life is between nine to twelve years, after which he will undergo surgery to change the battery.

Although Palmer hasn't had a cardiac incident since Aug. 30, he isn't allowed to participate in contact sports, so he is sitting on the sidelines watching football. He has been cleared for baseball this spring, however, if he wears a chest protector. It is unknown at this time what effect, if any, the incident has had on his athletic scholarship status.

"I'm going to have to work hard and get my grades up," Palmer said. "Just in case." He has ambitions to attend Boise State University, Idaho State University, or College of Southern Idaho.

Although he doesn't yet know what he wants to be after school, Palmer's grateful he has a second chance to do so, a second chance he wants to give to others.

"Go do the Monster Dash," said Palmer.

Copyright 2011 The Aberdeen Times, Aberdeen, Idaho. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: October 12, 2011

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