A jumble of athletic events converged at Edison High School May 8.
Scattered across the school’s outside athletic complex, baseball and softball teams hosted home games as the track team readied for a home meet. Inside, the school gym filled with AAU basketball players from across the area.
Edison athletic trainer Taylor Shoemake, 24, expected a hectic night, but never dreamed she would hold a life in her hands.
As nightfall approached, Jason Hawkins, Edison athletic department director, entered the school gym to flip on lights for the track meet. A basketball player ran up to him with a panicked look.
He then he saw a boy collapsed on the floor. He quickly radioed Shoemake, who was at the track.
Meanwhile, Lake Station police Capt. Brian Williams, a 15-year veteran, and Ptlm. Daniel Perryman were working security for the outside athletic events.
They raced to join Shoemake in the gym, where they found Rafeal Perry, 17, lying on the floor, fighting for each breath.
“She took control,” Hawkins said of Shoemake who told him to fetch one of the school’s four defibrillators.
Just the day before, she trained in using the AED or automatic external defibrillator, but she had never applied it in an emergency.
“He was struggling for breath. He had a pulse for two seconds, then his pulse and breathing stopped,” said Shoemake, who started compressions on Perry’s heart.
She was joined by Williams who took over cardio pulmonary resuscitation while she hooked up the AED. Perryman cut off Perry’s jersey.
“It gave a shot,” Shoemake said of the AED. She and Williams continued CPR and Perry’s breathing resumed, but he didn’t regain consciousness.
Soon, medics and an ambulance arrived and whisked Perry away to the St. Mary Medical Center in Hobart.
Lake Station Jr.-Sr. High Principal Christine Pepa said Perry, a junior at Gary’s 21st Century Charter School, was airlifted to the Riley Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis where he’s awaiting surgery.
“It was definitely a team effort,” Shoemake said of the effort.
The Lake Station School Board honored Shoemake, Williams, Perryman, and Hawkins on Wednesday. Each received a plaque for their roles. Pepa praised Shoemake.
“Due to Taylor’s incredible response and training, she saved a young adult’s life.”
Lake Station contracts with the Community Healthcare System for Shoemake’s services. She attends all the high school’s athletic events.
A Lake Central High graduate, Shoemake, of Dyer, studied athletic training at Anderson University. She’s in her second year at Lake Station, said John J. Doherty, vice president of therapy services and occupational health at Community Healthcare.
Meanwhile, 21st Century Charter School Principal Anthony Cherry said Thursday he learned Perry was born with a genetic heart defect that couldn’t be detected by a routine physical.
“We’ve Face Timed with him and he sent me a picture of what’s going on with his heart. It sounds like we avoided a very serious situation. If a person has this heart condition, they could die.” Cherry said
Perry was a member of the school’s junior varsity team.
“He was the type of kid we thought could help us out after losing (DeAndre) Gholston,” a senior bound for Kent State University. “Unfortunately, he’s going have to play a different role. He’ll be a manager or cheerleader,” said Cherry. He said Perry is expecting to have surgery on Monday, in which doctors will implant a defibrillator in his chest to treat his irregular heartbeats.
“Our hearts and prayers are with him,” said Cherry. “I know everything will be fine. He’s an awesome kid and a great student.”
Carole Carlson is a freelance reporter for the Post-Tribune.