Kean Alumnus saves Colonia boy’s life

by Angel Ospina

When an emergency situation occurs, it is those who are best-trained and well-
prepared that are able to think quickly.

Quick thinking was needed when a high school basketball player for the Colonia
High School freshman basketball team collapsed during the second quarter of a
game at Edison High School on Jan. 5.

Fortunately, Kean University alumni and Edison high school athletic trainer,
James Root’s ability to think and react quickly helped save the student athletes’ life.

“I noticed the young man seemed to start to fall into another player and then
hit the floor, as that was occurring I immediately jumped up because I knew
something was very wrong,” said Root via a phone interview.

Root, along with Colonia head Coach Joe LaSala were immediately alongside
the collapsed player. The Colonia coach quickly yelled for an AED (automatic
external defibrillator) because of the player’s medical history.

The AED is a portable device that examines the heart rhythm and if needed it can deliver a shock to the heart in order to regulate the normal rhythm.

Root immediately instructed Edison scoreboard operator and physical
education teacher, Mark Blevins to run and get the AED.

“It seemed he was having a seizure, he was having trouble breathing,” said
the Kean alum. “I removed his jersey, we hooked up the AED, at the point he
became unresponsive and it said advise shock.”

Once Root provided the shock, the freshman player slowly regained
consciousness and Root held his head up to allow the young man to breathe easily.

The Colonia freshman was then attended to by the EMT’s (Emergency
Medical Technician) who arrived shortly after Root used the AED. The freshman
was taken to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick
where he recovered after treatment.

The boy’s life was saved thanks to the immediate actions taken by the staff led
by Root.

“Mr. Root is an outstanding athletic trainer,” said Edison’s athletic director,
James Dicocco. “I am not surprised how quickly he responded because he is
such an outstanding trainer that when he is faced with stressful situation he
responds quickly and professionally to administer the proper help that is needed,” he stated.

Root gives credit to the entire staff who responded so quickly especially
Blevins, another Kean alumni, who rushed quickly to retrieve the AED and
ripped it open right before he handing it to Root.

“Mr. Root responded to the situation quickly and effectively. He was one of
the first responders to get the athletes side. He analyzed the boys condition
and called 9-1-1 immediately,” said Blevins via email. “When I arrived with
the AED he was instrumental in the proper application of the device.”

Root accredits his training and schooling, in which prepared him to handle the situation properly and calmly.

“I never had to use an AED, or perform CPR on someone, I wasn’t nervous, I
reacted to it very quickly, and I think your training just naturally takes over,” said Root enthusiastically.

Root received a bulk of that training from Kean, where he earned his
bachelor’s degree and athletic training certification in 1996.

“The athletic training program at Kean, I believe is one of the best in the
state, if not the best,” Root said.

Root has been Edison’s athletic trainer since 2003 and says he enjoys the high school setting and “keeping in touch with that generation.”

“It’s enjoyable to get to know student athletes when they’re a freshman and
then seeing them how they grow up and mature when they are seniors,” Root
stated as he described what he enjoys most about his job.

Although he can be considered a hero now, Root’s ability to maintain great
relationships with the student athletes is what others think makes him a great
athletic trainer.

“Mr. Root is excellent with the students, he has a strong relationship
with them,” said Dicocco.

Another relationship between Root and a student is in the works, as the
athletic trainer plans to meet the family and the boy whose life he saved some
time in the near future.

“That was a crazy day and one that I won’t forget any time soon,” said
Blevins. “It was the best feeling when I spoke to the coach on Tuesday and he
had said that the boy was back in school and helping his team by managing and
cheering on his teammates.”

Root and Blevins were honored with awards of recognition by the Edison
Township Board of Education on January 24.

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