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Are Colorado schools prepared for a cardiac emergency?



During a football game in October, 2022 Liberty High School Athletic Trainer-PJ Gardner, MS, ATC, LAT, CSCS, had what he called “the perfect storm”. A few minutes into the game, Jordan O’Connell was running onto the field when he suddenly collapsed. PJ quickly got to him and recognized he was unconscious, pulseless, and only gasping for air for a few seconds before breathing stopped as well. A nurse that was in the stands and a coach quickly came to PJ’s side and they began to remove his jersey and helmet so the nurse could begin compressions as PJ activated the emergency action plan, talked with the patient’s father for a moment about medical history. PJ then took over the compressions as they waiting to get the automatic external defibrillator (AED) and pads onto the patient. After a successful shock with the AED, the patient’s pulse returned and was successfully transferred to a local hospital where he was treated, diagnosed with Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy, and discharged after about 1 week of care.

The school provided players, coaches, and PJ with counseling the following day, which he describes as being helpful after such an event as this one as there are so many emotions you have. Since then, Jordan has gone back to school and stops by daily to say hi to PJ as they check in with each other and undoubtedly have a new bond that very few have.


We are all so grateful for this positive outcome from this event and the teamwork between PJ, a nurse, and the remaining personnel that carried out the emergency action plan. As PJ has continued to digest this event and look back on what had happened, his biggest take is to “get the AED as quickly as possible”.PJ, thank you for your amazing efforts, your teamwork, your modesty, and your work of over 21 years as an athletic trainer.


Pictured: PJ Gardner, MS, ATC, LAT, CSCS (left) & Jordan O’Connell (right)


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