April 27, 2017 started as a typical day for 14-year-old Kenyati Thompson Jr. Although, he says he doesn’t recall much of that day, his mom remembers it well.
“That day I was going to work the day shift and I saw him that morning before I left for work and he to school,” said Jocelynne Thompson. “He said, ‘Bye, mom, I love you,’ and I said, ‘I love you, too.’ I was really looking forward to being able to see him after school.”
Instead, Jocelynne received a call that no mother expects, but every mother fears. Her son had gone into cardiac arrest at school.
“I couldn’t believe it,” she said. “He’d never had any heart problems so how could this happen?”
But what could have ended in tragedy, began as a story of how a young life was saved thanks to proactive planning and quick action. The Chipman Junior High School staff was quick to reach for one of two AED’s (Automated External Defibrillator) located on campus to help resuscitate the student. This, according to doctors, not only helped save his life, but helped to pinpoint his heart condition.
“I can’t imagine where we would be if this device hadn’t been there,” said the student’s dad, Kenyati Thompson Sr. “If this had happened to him last year, we’d be planning a funeral.”
The AED’s were installed at every school site at the Bakersfield City School District just prior to the start of the 2016-2017 school year. This after the Board of Education allotted the funds for the devices after hearing of their importance from local activist Corrine Ruiz, who lost her teenage daughter due to heart failure at school. Although having the AED’s at schools is not mandatory, the Board saw it as necessary.
“We’re just so thankful that the Board saw the value in having these devices,” said Jocelynne. “They didn’t look at it as a price tag. They looked at it as a life. And I wish every district would do the same.”
Kenyati Jr. is now doing well and has returned to school. He was invited to lead the flag salute during April’s Board of Education meeting. His parents addressed the Board thanking them for providing the AED’s. Also in attendance was Russell Taylor, Chipman Junior High School Principal, who administered CPR on Kenyati, and Lisa Hudson, School Clerk, who quickly grabbed the AED. Although they never expected to have to use it, they had both been trained as part of the district’s effort to have AED-trained staff at every school site. Both Hudson and Taylor were recognized by the Board.
The family was at a loss for words. “Miss Lisa, I appreciate you,” said Jocelynne. “There are no words that we could express, nothing we could say, except thank you.”
And although all Kenyati Jr recalls of the incident is waking up in the hospital, he sure remembers retuning home and to school, and for that, he is grateful.
“I got to go home and I was like, ‘It’s good to be home,’” he said. “Everybody was giving me hugs. It was so good to be back. It’s good to be back. Thank you Mr. Taylor. Thank you, Miss Lisa. You saved my life. I thank them for having this machine at school. IF it wasn’t there, I wouldn’t be alive.”
Kenyati’s mother, Jocelynne, embraces and thanks Corrine Ruiz for promoting AED’s at schools.