A Harnett County mom is pushing for AEDs in schools statewide after using one on her own daughter at a Raleigh cheerleading competition, an act which ultimately saved her teenager’s life.
Andrea Joe, a certified medical assistant who works in a gynecology practice, is CPR trained and certified. But she’d never administered a life-saving shock, and she never imagined her first time would be on her own daughter.
Her 17-year-old daughter, Keianna, was warming up ahead of a cheerleading competition at Broughton High School on March 5 when her teammates noticed she was “acting weird,” Joe said, and they brought her down to the mat. Keianna’s coach noticed her twitching, and her eyes were rolled back in her head, Joe said.
A coach for another team, who Joe later learned is a registered nurse, began chest compressions on Keianna and asked for an AED, an automated external defibrillator, to be located immediately. After a few minutes, Joe took over and completed three rounds of compressions.
When Joe received the AED, she placed the pads on her daughter’s chest and heard the machine’s instruction to administer the shock. After two additional rounds of CPR, Keianna began breathing, though she was still unresponsive. She was brought to WakeMed hospital, where she was eventually intubated.
“Our doctor said without the quick reaction to start CPR — but specifically without using the AED — my daughter would not be alive,” Joe said.
“We could have done CPR all day long, but it was the shock from the AED that brought her heart out of its ventricular fibrillation. The shock rebooted her heart, and she’s now at home, recovering and doing well,” Joe said.
Keianna was later transferred to Duke Medical Center, where she stayed until Tuesday this week. She now has an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator in her chest (a battery-powered device that can administer a shock if it determines one is needed) and is recovering at home — sleeping soundly and cracking jokes, her mother said.
In fact, Keianna’s sense of humor has helped her cope with the trauma of the event, Joe said.
“In the hospital, a therapist came in to talk to her, and she asked if Keianna was a good cheerleader. And she responded, ‘Well I was, until it tried to kill me.’
“I said to her ‘Keianna!’ And she said, ‘What, too soon?’”
Pushing for AEDs in schools, health clubs across NC
As Keianna begins her recovery, Joe wants others to understand the importance of having AEDs in schools.
The Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation, a nonprofit working to prevent, treat and educate the public about sudden cardiac arrest across the United States, reports that North Carolina does not require AEDs in the state’s schools or health clubs. A spokesperson for the NC Department of Public Instruction searched at the request of The News & Observer and could not find any law or rule requiring AEDs in schools.
Joe hopes to change this.
“I didn’t realize there are so many states where AEDs are not mandated in schools, and North Carolina is one of them,” she said. “It’s a miracle the school in Raleigh had one and it was working.”
Joe, who has children in elementary, middle and high school, is meeting with all three Harnett County principals in the coming weeks to see how the district can get working AEDs in all schools, she said.
Joe’s sister set up a GoFundMe earlier this month to raise money for Keianna’s medical bills. As of March 15, the family has raised over $20,000. (The GoFundMe can be found at gofundme.com/f/love-and-support-for-keianna.)
“Our cheerleading gym — it’s a tiny gym in Sanford — doesn’t even have an AED. We’re using some of the money to buy them one,” Joe said.
The family’s story is inspiring their friends and neighbors to get CPR- and AED-trained for emergency situations.
“My 12-year-old son plays rec league baseball, and the director told my husband that they’re using their extra money to get their whole staff trained and certified in CPR and AED,” Joe said.
“Keianna’s story is making people realize how easily this can happen, and it can happen to anyone. We all need to be prepared.”
How to get CPR trained, certified in NC
▪ Wake: If you’re interested in taking a CPR class with Wake County EMS, register online or learn more at wakegov.com/departments-government/emergency-medical-services-ems/learn-cpr.
▪ Orange: Courses for individuals are offered monthly at the SORS station in Carrboro, with class dates, times and registration information posted online at sors.us/cpr.
▪ Durham: Durham County EMS “has been doing hands-only CPR classes along with Stop the Bleed training as part of our community risk reduction efforts in specific areas of the county but we do not have any currently scheduled,” a senior public information specialist for the county previously told The N&O.
▪ Johnston: Individuals and groups can contact the county’s EMS Division directly to learn how to perform hands-only CPR. The division can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 919-989-5050.
▪ Harnett: Harnett County Emergency services provides the American Heart Association’s Basic Life Support Courses, including hands-only CPR, Heart Saver CPR and AED training and more. Learn more by visiting harnett.org and searching “CPR Certification.”
This story was originally published March 15, 2023, 3:08 PM.