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Eufaula teachers, staffers honored for life-saving response to student’s cardiac emergency

EUFAULA — Educators and staffers who saved the life of a sixth-grader will be recognized at a school board meeting Monday night.

Middle schooler Cade Weaver, who turned 13 on Friday, had just finished basketball layup drills in P.E. class on Nov. 7 and was getting ready to go to his next class when he suddenly slumped to the floor.

He stopped breathing and had no detectable pulse.

As terrible a fate as that was, it wasn’t a wholly unexpected one. And every last thing that could go right after that moment, went right.

When Cade was just 6 months old, his doctor heard a murmur in his heart during a routine checkup and sent him for testing. He was diagnosed with an often undiagnosed condition called Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.

When he was 6 years old, doctors implanted a pacemaker and defibrillator as a precautionary measure.

“We’re fortunate because we knew about Cade’s condition and his condition is rarely diagnosed that early, if at all. Many times, people find out someone had it after it’s too late,” said Cade’s father Tye Weaver. “This was something that unfortunately was likely to happen because his condition had worsened significantly since his last doctor’s appointment. He had grown 4 inches and gained 20 pounds. So his meds weren’t adequate and the leads on his defibrillator had disconnected.”

That meant after Cade went down, electric shocks from his implanted device were unable to restore a normal heartbeat.

Immediately, faculty and staff rushed into action.

Someone ran to the office for help, where secretary Jennifer Kiker knew exactly what was needed — the school’s automated external defibrillator.

“It helped that we’re a small town. As soon as the school secretary knew who it was who went down — as soon as they said it was Cade — she went straight for the AED,” recalled Superintendent Monty Guthrie. “Getting to know your kids and your families — it all matters.”

Also on that day, Cade’s PE teacher was absent. Substituting in the gymnasium was Jared Efurd, Eufaula Public Schools’ director of technology and middle and high school girls basketball coach.

He was immediately joined by Principal Jeremy Gragg, a former state trooper, and school nurse Shirley Hopkins, who had just reviewed Cade’s health history in a phone call with his mother the week before. All three of them took turns using their previous CPR training, and Efurd applied the AED.

“About three years ago there was a wreck right outside the elementary school, and Jared Efurd was there. It was an older woman, and she went into cardiac arrest. He ran to the middle school and got the AED, did CPR, and used the AED on her and she lived,” said Superintendent Guthrie.

Then he chuckled.

“And he just happened to be substituting in that classroom that day. He is now two-for-two,” Guthrie said of Efurd.

For about 15 minutes Efurd, Gragg and Hopkins took turns performing chest compressions and rescue breaths on Cade.

His mother Jenny Weaver, who works across the street from the middle school, got there in time to witness all but the first four minutes of the emergency.

“I have a hard time verbalizing what it means. But if they were not there, Cade would have died,” she said. “His defibrillator shocked him nine to 14 times, and they all failed. The compressions they did could not have been more perfect. Doctors don’t think he suffered any hypoxia or any effect on his brain. Everything while he was down was moving — because of those compressions. And right before EMS arrived, Cade took one big deep breath.”

Jenny went with Cade as he was transported by helicopter twice, first to a Tulsa hospital and then during a transfer to an Oklahoma City hospital, where he spent nearly two weeks receiving further treatment, including implantation of a new defibrillator fit for a growing boy.

He was back in school, albeit restricted from any physical exertion, by the end of November.

Because he was unconscious, the only individual present who seemingly wasn’t traumatized by the episode is Cade himself.

Jenny Weaver laughed as she recounted how often Cade has come home from school in the months since and commented that Gragg or Efurd had checked up on him.

“I’ll say, ‘Buddy, they went through a very traumatic experience. What they did for you, I don’t know if you’ll ever understand. Then they had to wait hours to find out if you were OK.’”

Hopkins, a nurse practitioner who has worked at the school 15 years, admitted she has had to ask for a hug a time or two when she runs into Cade.

And Efurd has told Cade the story of how he helped the woman in the car crash previously to try to illustrate to him how extraordinary both situations were in the stars seeming to align just right to produce a positive outcome instead of tragedy.

“I think it’s just truly a God thing and I’ve told him, ‘Cade, I think there’s big plans in store for your life,’” Efurd said before shaking his head and letting out a nervous laugh. “I also think I’d like to have a small AED for my backpack that I take to away basketball games and out to the softball field!”

In addition to Kiker — the secretary who rushed the AED to Cade’s side and then assisted with emergency communications — and Efurd, Gragg and Hopkins, the Eufaula school board on Monday evening will also be recognizing three other school employees who assisted.

They are Shasti James, elementary school assistant principal, who assisted Jenny Weaver along with middle school counselor Jennifer Smith, who also tended to shaken-up students, and registrar Mekia Burns, who handled communications with EMS and parents.

Guthrie said Cade Weaver will be the one handing out plaques.

“None of them wanted to go home after,” Guthrie said. “All of this happened and going home to rest for the day and not being there for their kids was not even an option for them. That’s just the kind of people educators are.”

Cade admitted that he is a little nervous about Monday night, but said he knows exactly how he feels toward each of the individuals.

“I just feel lucky,” he said. “I want to say, just, thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

A few months have passed, but Tye Weaver still shudders to think how the outcome might have been different if Cade’s heart condition had gotten the better of him in a location without an automated external defibrillator, such as home or during one of his favorite pastimes, fishing.

“I can say without a shadow of a doubt, it definitely was by divine intervention that it happened where it did, and with the right people around so my son could still be here with us,” Tye Weaver said. “What they did, there is no way to ever say thank you enough for that.

“They had that CPR training that they paid attention to even though the odds of them ever needing to use it are very, very slim. And how many teachers or coaches could take that (AED) device in that critical moment and use it? There’s too many things that had to work exactly the right way for him to be here with us today.”

Eufaula teachers, staffers honored for life-saving response to student’s cardiac emergency
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