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Avery Shappley, Corinth

by Elizabeth W. on Friday, August 8, 2014

Avery Shappley Corinth, MS

Life changed forever for Avery Shappley on a cold, beautiful February afternoon in 2012.  Avery, a high school freshman in Corinth, Miss., was trying out for the tennis team. She was cleared for tryouts through her athletic physical and had been running lines. 

A nearby coach noticed that Avery began to lose her balance. He ran over to help break her fall and as she collapsed, she went into cardiac arrest. Luckily, the nearby coach was trained in CPR and reacted immediately. He instructed his assistant coach to call 9-1-1 and he delivered CPR to Avery for approximately 15 minutes. He told the assistant coach he was not stopping until the paramedics arrived. Once the paramedics were on the scene, they had to use an AED to revive Avery before taking her to the hospital.

Unfortunately, Avery’s story is not the norm.  Because most sudden cardiac arrest victims do not receive CPR within a few precious minutes causing the survival rate to be a dismal 10.4 percent nationwide.  If given right away, CPR doubles or triples survival rates.

Avery & Gov. Phil Bryant on Bill Signing Day

This is why the American Heart Association worked tirelessly with You're the Cure advocates to add CPR training as a high school graduation requirement during the 2014 legislative session. Due to the passage of the CPR in Schools bill, Mississippi will see on average 27,000 students graduate every year with this lifesaving knowledge.    

“If you suffer sudden cardiac arrest, your best chance at survival is receiving bystander CPR until Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) arrive,” said Lisa Valadie, Community Educator/Paramedic with the Madison Fire Department. “We want to create a generation of lifesavers by making sure students learn CPR before they graduate. In less than the time it takes to watch a TV sitcom, we can give students the skills they need to help save a person’s life with CPR. Teaching students CPR will add lifesavers to our community, year after year, and everyone benefits.”

Sudden cardiac arrest can happen to anyone, at any time.

Nearly 424,000 people have sudden cardiac arrest outside of a hospital every year. Sudden cardiac arrest is most often caused by a heart attack, but can also be caused by trauma, an overdose or drowning. In sudden cardiac arrest, the heart stops beating, blood stops circulating, oxygen stops flowing to the brain and the victim stops breathing. 

In Avery’s case, the high school student learned that she had a serious heart condition called Anomalous Left Coronary Artery from the Pulmonary Artery (ALCAPA). ALCAPA is a very rare heart defect that occurs as a result of the left coronary artery forming abnormally. Instead of connecting to the aorta, as in a normal heart, it connects to the pulmonary artery. Avery had to undergo one surgery and she made a full recovery.

“CPR is the lifesaving solution,” Valadie said. “Many people are alive today because individuals trained in CPR—including youth and adults who received that training in school—gave someone CPR until EMTs arrived. We need to create a generation in which every brother, sister, son, daughter, friend and complete stranger is trained in CPR at school and is prepared to save lives.”

This life-changing event and its successful outcome is one of the many reasons Avery decided to dedicate her personal time as a volunteer for the American Heart Association. She has set up a CPR initiative to share her story and encourage others to be trained in CPR.

“I believe that CPR is very important because it does save lives. It saved mine,” said Avery. “The need for people around me to know CPR was something that was vital to my survival, but no one knew that. I was just lucky to collapse when and where I did.”