FOUR AN­GELS AMONG US

Ed­u­ca­tors at Bal­moral School hon­oured for sav­ing life of Grade 6 stu­dent

Calgary Sun - - NEWS - LI­CIA COR­BELLA Li­cia Cor­bella is a Post­media opin­ion columnist. lcor­[email protected]­media.com @Li­ci­aCor­bella

Maryam Basharat is per­haps too young to fully ap­pre­ci­ate just what a liv­ing, breath­ing, walk­ing, talk­ing mir­a­cle she is.

But for a small group of adults gath­ered Fri­day at Bal­moral School to hon­our the prin­ci­pal and three teach­ers who brought the 11-year-old stu­dent back to life, tears of grat­i­tude fill their eyes at the smil­ing mir­a­cle in our midst.

On Sept. 6 — just three days af­ter classes started at the stately 1936 sand­stone school on 16th Av­enue and 2nd Street N.W. — that bright light of a Grade 6 girl col­lapsed dur­ing af­ter­noon gym class out­side while run­ning. Her heart had stopped.

The se­ries of events that hap­pened next on that ter­ri­fy­ing day is why prin­ci­pal Liana Ap­pelt, Bryan Allen, Thomas Guen­ther and Jil­lian Wright were pre­sented with framed EMS Cit­i­zen Recognition Awards dur­ing a mov­ing cer­e­mony in Wright’s so­cial stud­ies class­room.

Allen, so­cial stud­ies and phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion teacher, says he’ll never for­get that day. “It’s beau­ti­ful out­side. We were three or four min­utes into the run and a stu­dent ran up to grab me, say­ing, ‘Maryam is ly­ing in the grass over there.’ I ac­tu­ally thought, it’s the last class of the day, it’s gor­geous out, maybe she’s just tak­ing a break.”

In­stead, she was fight­ing for her life.

“She was gasp­ing for air,” re­calls the 35-year-old. “I had a ra­dio and my cell­phone. The ra­dio was non-re­spon­sive so I called Thomas, my teach­ing partner in the school. I told him to get help in the school and the AED (au­to­mated ex­ter­nal de­fib­ril­la­tor), and then I called 911.

“Then Thomas, Jil­lian and Liana, came run­ning over and Jill started

CPR. Thomas and Liana put the AED on her, they zapped her and then shortly af­ter that EMS ar­rived.”

Guen­ther, 36, a phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion teacher, re­calls how fright­ened he was when he came upon the scene.

“She wasn’t breath­ing and she didn’t have a pulse,” he says.

“She looked like she was not alive. It was very scary. When the AED shocked her, you could see in her eyes that she came back to life for a sec­ond and you could tell that some­thing worked, you could see that she was alive again. I’ll never for­get that.”

Wright, 29, a grades 8 and 9 so­cial stud­ies teacher, con­tin­ued chest com­pres­sions and res­cue breath­ing on Maryam.

Four min­utes af­ter 911 was called, the first EMS of­fi­cer, Paul Em­mer­son, ar­rived on the scene.

“She was no longer in car­diac ar­rest, her heart­beat was re­stored and her body was now re­ceiv­ing full oxy­gen through­out,” Stu­art Brideaux, pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion of­fi­cer with EMS in Cal­gary, told the small gath­er­ing.

“In just min­utes from the time of Maryam’s col­lapse, these four teach­ers ini­ti­ated CPR, made the 911 call, per­formed res­cue breath­ing and de­ployed the AED all be­fore the ar­rival of EMS.

“They com­pleted the first three of the five links in the chain of sur­vival — all of the links that lay-res­cuers can even per­form.”

Maryam was smil­ing her big dim­pled smile dur­ing the telling of her or­deal, but her grate­ful par­ents, Mom­ina and Basharat Ali, were wip­ing away tears.

“This is very mov­ing and mean­ing­ful for us,” said Ali, a 42-year-old fi­nan­cial ser­vices man­ager.

“These teach­ers are my he­roes. The EMS are our he­roes. The doc­tors are our he­roes. But these teach­ers. With­out them, our daugh­ter would be dead and we would be liv­ing a ter­ri­ble tragedy. In­stead, now, we have joy and grat­i­tude. I don’t have words that can ex­press what’s in my heart. They saved our daugh­ter’s life.”

Mom­ina, who was stand­ing back with the fam­ily’s youngest daugh­ter, Sarah, 5, held one hand to her chest while the other wiped away tears.

“The teach­ers are an­gels to us,” Mom­ina said. “I am amazed by what hap­pened. If this had hap­pened to Maryam two hours later at home, then we would not have Maryam. She was in the right place at the right time with peo­ple who have trained for this and they did ev­ery­thing right and I will for­ever be grate­ful to them.”

Mom­ina is right. Ev­ery one of the 26 teach­ers at the school of 609 stu­dents is trained in first aid, CPR and in how to use an AED. In Au­gust, as the teach­ers pre­pared for the new school year, Ap­pelt, who was the CBE’s youngest prin­ci­pal at the age of 36 in 2014, when she was named one of Cal­gary’s Top 40 Un­der 40, was hold­ing a day of prac­tice drills with the staff.

“En­sur­ing that ev­ery­one knows our emer­gency pro­to­col is very im­por­tant,” said Ap­pelt. “We are all here for our stu­dents and I’m just so de­lighted that Maryam is alive and well.”

CBE Trus­tee Lisa Davis says lis­ten­ing to the events that tran­spired that day is sober­ing and mov­ing.

“What you re­al­ize lis­ten­ing to EMS is that ab­so­lutely ev­ery­thing that needed to hap­pen, hap­pened,” said Davis. “That is a real tes­ta­ment to the prin­ci­pal at this school and the staff who re­sponded.”

Davis said she’s been told that of the peo­ple who have a car­diac ar­rest out­side of a med­i­cal fa­cil­ity, only four out of 5,000 sur­vive. “So you can­not over­state the mir­a­cle that hap­pened that day.”

As for that mir­a­cle, she’s happy to be alive.

“I’m very thank­ful that I’m still in this world,” said the bright stu­dent who loves math, band and art.

“I’m so glad that my teach­ers knew what to do and I’m glad they got these awards be­cause they de­serve it,” added Maryam.

So what does she want to do when she grows up?

“I want to save lives. I want to be a doc­tor.”

LEAH HEN­NEL/POST­MEDIA

Maryam Basharat, 11, with staff at Bal­moral School who helped save her life: From left, teach­ers Bryan Allen, Thomas Guen­ther, Jil­lian Wright and prin­ci­pal Liana Ap­pelt.

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