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Fast Action Saves a 19-Year-Old’s Life

(L-R): Timothy Farrell, MD, FACC, Karen Carter and Trey Carter with Bishop O’Connell’s Head of School Dr. Joseph Vorbach and Head Basketball Coach Joe Wootten.

In the world of high school basketball, few rivalries are bigger than the one between Paul VI High School in Fairfax and Bishop O’Connell High School in Arlington. Among the fans in the house for their sold-out game on January 9 was University of Maryland freshman Trey Carter, Bishop O’Connell’s former basketball team manager, who was watching the game on a stage behind one of the baskets.
Like everyone else in the gym, Trey was cheering on his team when, out of nowhere, he felt extremely fatigued. He got up from his seat to go get a bottle of water. That’s the last thing he remembers.
“I took two steps and I fell,” he says.
Trey collapsed in front of Bishop O’Connell’s Head of School, Dr. Joseph Vorbach, who immediately called 911. The team’s trainer rushed to Trey’s side, found he had no pulse and started CPR. An off-duty critical care nurse stepped in to assist.
One of the trainers motioned to Trey’s mother, Karen Carter, who hurried down from the stands. Seated a few rows in front of her was Timothy Farrell, MD, FACC, a cardiologist and a long-time family friend of the Carters.
“There were 25 seconds to go and the score was tied,” Dr. Farrell said. “All of a sudden, I see Karen leaving. She said, ‘Trey passed out,’ so I followed her. When I turned the corner onto the stage, Trey was gray and they were doing CPR.” Dr. Farrell asked one of the trainers for an automated external defibrillator (AED). The trainer immediately brought one from the athletic office, just steps away.
“We shocked his heart and 20 to 30 seconds later, he came around,” Dr. Farrell says.
Trey thought he had just fainted and asked about the score. Always the true fan, he told his former coach, “I got you a time-out. Now go win the game!” (They did, in overtime.)
The ambulance arrived to take Trey to Virginia Hospital Center, where he was monitored in the Intensive Care Unit. Dr. Farrell and James Duc, MD, FACC, a heart rhythm specialist, analyzed the data from the AED, which had recorded Trey’s heart rhythm. What they learned was that Trey had experienced sudden cardiac arrest caused by ventricular fibrillation. His heart had been beating so rapidly that there was no effective blood flow.
“Less than 5 to 10 percent of people with sudden cardiac arrest survive. Time is critical. Ideally, CPR should be started within four minutes and the heart should be shocked within eight minutes to have the best chance of restoring the heart rhythm," explains Dr. Duc.
Several fortunate factors worked together to save Trey’s life that day. Dr. Vorbach immediately called 911. CPR was started within 20 seconds and an AED was just a few feet away.
“Somebody wanted this kid to live,” Dr. Farrell says. “If Trey had gone down the hall and collapsed there, no one would have found him in time.”
Trey was in Virginia Hospital Center for six days. Dr. Duc implanted a wireless defibrillator in his chest to monitor his heart rhythm. If he has another sustained rapid heart rhythm, the defibrillator will deliver a shock to rescue him within 20 seconds.
Karen Carter said the event taught her that “anybody can help a person. Trey stopped breathing for a good four to five minutes. He has no brain damage from this, thanks to the immediate response of people who were standing there by him.”
“Everyone should know CPR and AEDs should be readily available everywhere—workplaces, schools, churches. No doubt Trey is alive and well today because of how quickly he received CPR and the fact that there was an AED close by,” says Dr. Farrell.

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