BATON ROUGE – A group of LSU students are responsible for saving the life of an LSU faculty member. LSU Boyd professor James Oxley went into sudden cardiac arrest while swimming laps at the indoor pool inside the LSU University Recreation, or UREC, building on Friday, July 5. A Boyd professor is the highest professorial ranking offered by the university.
“I was less than halfway through my regular swim when I stopped swimming. I don’t really know why I stopped,” Oxley said. “Evidently I slipped under the water and came back up and then fell across the lane ropes. John Foster, another swimmer, as well as one other person who we don’t know yet, dragged me out."
That’s when a group of LSU students, who work at the UREC, used their training and jumped into action. Isabella Alvarez, a senior from New Orleans, La., was in the lifeguard stand.
“I noticed he had gotten out of the water and instead of continuing to swim he looked at Mr. Foster, the man on his right, and he fell into his arms. At this point, I had already gotten out of the chair because I noticed some sporadic behavior. I went over, saw my co-worker Katie Estes, who did the primary assessment. I called for a code red (over the radio) and I made sure to tell them that I needed EMS and an AED,” Alvarez said.
Estes, a junior from Memphis, Tenn. was stationed at the “greeter” table, and was the first person to assess Oxley.
“I felt his pulse diminish and then he gasped for air. I went through that cycle several times and then that’s when Evan took over,” Estes said.
Evan Young, a senior from Mandeville, La., is a UREC aquatics supervisor. Young was in the UREC and said he watched through the glass doors as Alvarez got out of the lifeguard chair and ran to Oxley. Young ran to the pool deck to assist as well.
“As soon as I saw him on the ground, I knew this was really serious. This is the most serious emergency I’ve ever dealt with at the UREC,” said Young. “I was giving just the compressions. Katie was giving breaths and Isabella was working the AED, or Automated External Defibrillator. It was three of us all working together. We’ve been trained, and we practice all of this together monthly.”
The students were able to revive Oxley. Baton Rouge EMS transported Oxley to the hospital.
“The immediate recognition and response of the team was phenomenal. Their actions allowed the emergency response system to work perfectly by initiating immediate CPR, defibrillation and notifying 911 as soon as possible. Without their initial response and treatment, the outcome could have easily been much worse. We always hope these actions will prompt others to learn CPR and be prepared to assist the public when needed,” said Mike Chustz, public information officer with Baton Rouge EMS.
The students’ training is part of the UREC’s team supervisor training initiative. Laurie Braden, executive director of UREC, said the building is made up of five student supervisors: aquatics, fitness, adventure, sports programs and facility. Ninety student supervisors work at the UREC helping manage the other 300 student employee positions. Together, they go through a four-hour training session three times per year. In addition, lifeguards are required to complete 21.5 hours of basic lifeguard training. The UREC’s lifeguards also participate in monthly in-service training exercises. Young, a lifeguard instructor, is required to complete additional training.
“If they had not acted quickly, ran where they needed to run, acted professionally when they needed to act professionally and saved all of that time, then I just wouldn’t be here talking coherently to you,” Oxley said.
At the hospital, doctors implanted a device to improve Oxley’s cardiac health, made up of a defibrillator and a pacemaker.
“The defibrillator, if I have sudden cardiac arrest will shock my heart and hopefully restore normal rhythm, and the pacemaker will stop me from having missed beats,” Oxley said.
Doctors at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital told Oxley he does not have any heart or brain damage because of the students who quickly attended to him pool side.
“They saved my career. Not just my life, but my career, and that’s just a huge thing for me,” Oxley said. “I’m 66 and I’m getting near retirement, but I don’t really want to retire. I’ve got four graduate students who are relying on me. It’s just impossible to say how much I owe these people. My career has been doing math, and doing math has been one of the great satisfactions in my life. Swimming is the other passion that I have, apart from friends and family of course.”
Oxley said he’s grateful for these eight students for saving him:
- Katie Estes of Memphis, Tenn.: lifeguard at the greeter position. Provided initial assessment and first round of rescue breathing.
- Isabella Alvarez of New Orleans, La.: lifeguard on-stand. Radioed code red, administered AED and provided additional care
- Evan Young of Mandeville, La.: aquatics supervisor, provided assessment and CPR compressions
- Jude Hinson of Baton Rouge, La.: adventure attendant at climbing wall, assisted with AED, provide second round of rescue breaths
- Tyler Mattingly of Ashburn, Va.: facilities assistant, notified EMS
- Kristen St. Cyr of New Orleans, La.: adventure supervisor, assisted emergency responders from front of the building to the scene
- Caila Palmer of New Orleans, La.: facilities supervisor, assisted in general team response
- Joshua Brignac of Baton Rouge, La.: fitness supervisor, assisted in general team response
Oxley said he is hopeful he’ll be able to start swimming again.
“The great thing about this facility, it’s wonderful for relieving stress. It’s wonderful for relieving depression and it’s wonderful for oxygenating your brain, so students can be ready to take in the lessons in class,” Oxley said.