In the Wake of Terrible Loss, Couple Teaches How to Save Lives
When her 15-year-old son Greg collapsed of sudden cardiac arrest at a basketball game in 2000, Rachel Moyer watched helplessly as medical aid arrived too late to save him.
On March 19, Moyer and her husband, John, taught CPR and Automated External Defibrillator training to 30 East Stroudsburg University students and staff members at Zimbar-Liljenstein Hall to give them the tools to save a life should they ever find themselves in the same situation.
“I did not know what an automated external defibrillator was until I got to the hospital and the nurse said to me there should have been an AED there and I said, ‘What’s an AED?’” Rachel Moyer recalls. “And she told me that if there had been one there Greg would probably have lived.”
Since that tragedy, the Moyers of Shawnee-on-Delaware have made it their mission to get defibrillators – which can send an electric shock to the heart to restore its normal rhythm — into schools, gyms and other gathering places. The Greg W. Moyer Defibrillator Fund donated to ESU its first three AEDs. The university now has 52 AEDs in buildings across campus. The equipment has been used to save three lives.
ESU President Marcia G. Welsh, Ph.D. invited the Moyers to conduct the training on campus and she took part on March 19.
“It doesn’t do us any good for them to put the machines on our campus if nobody knows how to use them,” Dr. Welsh said. “So when a crisis does occur we want to make sure that they’re accessible and people are trained to use them.”
Rachel Moyer said ESU has been diligent in having defibrillators in the right spots on campus and Welsh’s desire to be trained to use them and in CPR sends an important message.
“Of the 22,000 people I have taught CPR to, Dr. Welsh is the first president of a college,” Moyer said. “It’s wonderful.”
Leaning over a mannequin, Welsh put the palm of one hand on top of another, pushing down quickly and hard for rapid chest compressions that are designed to pump the heart to circulate blood and deliver oxygen to the brain.
“That was the longest minute of my life,” Welsh said after completing her turn.
CPR performed within the first few minutes of cardiac arrest can vastly improve the person’s chance of survival. Those doing CPR are advised to push on the chest at the rate of 100-120 compressions per minute which matches the beat of the disco song “Stayin’ Alive.”
Sometimes people are afraid to give CPR because they could break the person’s sternum but that’s infinitely preferable to doing nothing and letting the person die, the Moyers said. Pennsylvania’s Good Samaritan law gives people legal protections when they try to render assistance under such circumstances.
The National Student-Athlete Advisory Committees (SAAC) of NCAA Division II schools have mandated that all their student-athletes take CPR and AED training, an initiative supported by the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) Board of Directors. At the March 19 session, Colleen Dwyer, a senior from East Brunswick, N.J. majoring in communication sciences and disorders and a swimmer who is also the vice president of SAAC at ESU, trained on a mannequin along with Lauren Morrissey of Bethlehem, Pa., a junior exercise science major who is SAAC secretary.
“You can only do what you know and knowing this may save someone’s life,” said Morrissey, who is on the tennis team.
Approximately 350,000 people experience out-of-hospital cardiac arrest each year and about 90 percent of those people die, according to the American Heart Association.
“It’s the number one killer on campuses of kids in sports,” Rachel Moyer said.
Lawrence Mills-Baidoo, a junior from Lansdowne, Pa. majoring in sport management, partnered with Levi Murphy, a junior history and secondary education major from Dover, Pa., as they gave CPR and used the defibrillator on a mannequin. Both students, who are also on the football team, said the training could be important in their fields.
“As a prospective educator, I think this is going to be really valuable,” Murphy said. “It’s wonderful to know if something like this ever happens, I’m going to be prepared.”
Mills agreed and said he thought the defibrillator would be more complicated than it is.
“I didn’t know the AED was so easy to use,” he said. “It tells you everything you have to do, step by step.”
Rachel Moyer said it’s a myth that only a medical professional can use a defibrillator. AEDs are designed so that as soon as you open them up, the device begins to tell you what to do,
“A fourth-grader can use an AED,” she said.
The Moyers’ son Greg had had three sports physicals in the year before he died and none of them had detected any heart problems, Rachel said.
He was 6 feet 3 inches and 210 pounds, playing varsity basketball for Notre Dame High School in East Stroudsburg at the East Stroudsburg High School North gym when he collapsed.
To honor him and make sure fewer families experience a loss like theirs, the Moyers set up the Greg W. Moyer Defibrillator Fund that raises money to donate defibrillators to schools and other organizations and educates the public on the need for AEDs.
They also worked with the former Pennsylvania State Rep. Kelly Lewis on legislation in 2001 to get 2,400 AEDs into schools across the state by making them more affordable. When their son died, AEDs cost about $3,400 but the price today is about $1,500 each, Rachel Moyer said.
In addition to donating three defibrillators to ESU, the Moyers have helped the university procure others at a lower price and some of those have been used to save lives. One save occurred in December 2010 when a 22-year-old student playing basketball in a recreation class collapsed on the court and athletic trainers Wendy Dietrich and Colleen Shotwell administered CPR and the AED. In November 2013, a player from an opposing team in a woman’s basketball tournament went into respiratory arrest and Shotwell and fellow trainer Meg Fowler used the AED in the rescue. Prior to 2010, a defibrillator was used to save a man’s life during a graduation ceremony, according to Shotwell.
President Welsh received such positive feedback from students, faculty and staff that participated in the training that she is working with the Moyers to schedule an additional training for the campus community in the near future.