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Friday, March 16th, 2012

St. Marys teacher administers CPR

Quick reaction saves girl's life

By Amy Kronenberger
ST. MARYS - Climbing a hill may be a simple task for most kids, but for one St. Marys sixth-grader it turned into a life or death situation.
Jenny Shellabarger on Dec. 7 had joined the rest of her class for a three-day field trip to Glen Helen Nature Preserve in Yellow Springs, a trip the school had been taking for 19 years. The class was scheduled to collect data for the weather station, visit a raptor sanctuary and take hikes.
Shellabarger, who suffers from a heart condition, went into cardiac arrest shortly after arriving and climbing a hill. Her teacher, Jim Hollman, saved her life with CPR. Hollman was commended for his actions during a school board meeting Wednesday.
Shellabarger's parents, Mary and Todd, wrote a letter of appreciation, which was read at the meeting.
"We cannot begin to express our appreciation for what you did for our daughter. Your quick thinking and actions saved our little girl's life," they wrote.
Shellabarger, 11, suffers from a condition that prevents her from participating in any activities that raise her heart rate. She has a defibrillator implant that shocks her heart into normal rhythm if it becomes too irregular or high.
When Shellabarger arrived at Glen Helen, she carried her backpack up a hill to the dorms with the rest of her classmates. Her heart stopped at 180 beats, and the defibrillator did not activate because it was set at 220 beats.
Hollman, who is trained in CPR and first aid as a varsity football and track coach at St. Marys, rushed to her aid when he saw her collapse.
"When I came up there, it just looked like she fell down and was having a seizure," Hollman said. "But she had stopped breathing."
Hollman immediately began CPR and checked for a heartbeat. He found no rhythm, so he began chest compressions. A faint pulse was brought back.
"I felt a slight breath on my cheek so I told her 'Jenny, you need to take a deep breath for me; take a deep breath,' " Hollman recalled.
She did.
"Her first words to me when she came to were, 'call my mom; she'll be really worried,' " he said.
Hollman said all teachers react instinctively. The other teachers there aided Hollman and called 911.
"It seemed everyone knew what to do," he said. "Just like in coaching, everyone has their duties. Everyone worked together. It was like we had a game plan that went into action."
Hollman rode in the ambulance with Shellabarger, who was awake, talking and joking around by then, he said. When they arrived at the hospital, he stayed with her for about three hours until her parents arrived.
The recording on the defibrillator said her heart had stopped for 31 seconds, Hollman said.
"The doctor said if I hadn't been there, there would have been a different story," he said.
Jenny Shellabarger, who attended the board meeting Wednesday, gave Hollman a candy bouquet. The board presented him with a plaque honoring his actions.
Mary Shellabarger said they first learned Jenny had the condition when she was 9 years old. She collapsed while running in gym class.
"They ruled it as just a seizure, but I knew something more was wrong," she said. "So I insisted they do more tests. That's when we found out."
Mary Shellabarger said the condition only bothers her daughter when incidents happen.
"That, and when Mom is being a little overprotective; that bothers her," she said. "She'll ask to go places like the roller rink and to Cedar Point, and I say 'no, I don't think you should.' Then I'll give in and let her go, and I'll be worried sick about her the whole time."
Shellabarger said her daughter doesn't let her condition get in the way of her life.
"She thinks she's a diva," she said. "She really doesn't worry about it too much. She's a typical kid."
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