‘Literally witnessed a miracle’: CASD staff, emergency personnel save life
Catasauqua Middle School seventh-grader Steel Martell had no idea a simple game of kickball in gym class would change his life - and the lives of those around him - forever.
During a physically active class April 21, Steel’s heart gave out, and he went into cardiac arrest. He fell to the ground and reportedly had no pulse.
Luckily, Catasauqua Area School District staff is well trained, and the schools are equipped with AEDs (automated external defibrillators). Thanks to the quick thinking of Eric Dauberman, Sheckler Elementary School principal; Jen Churetta, Sheckler Elementary nurse; and William Cecchini, CMS substitute, Steel is alive and well today.
Within moments of Steel’s cardiac arrest, he was being treated with CPR and an AED, and emergency calls were made. Shortly after, police from both Catasauqua and North Catasauqua police departments and EMTs were on the scene. Steel was taken to Lehigh Valley Hospital and stabilized before being taken to Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania.
According to his mother, Krista Martell, a CASD speech language pathologist, Steel’s heart story began two months ago when his health care provider, Brian Pepe, physician assistant at Children’s Healthcare, Allentown, noticed a heart murmur during a routine checkup.
They then went to see Dr. Robert Palermo at CHOP. Palermo diagnosed Steel with cardiomyopathy, a disease of the heart muscle that makes it harder for the heart to pump blood to the rest of the body.
“There are not enough adjectives to describe complete and utter thankfulness,” Krista Martell said regarding those who saved her son’s life.
Krista Martell reported they are donating a bench for the CASD staff who were on the scene first - Dauberman, Churetta and Cecchini.
Steel’s father, Kyle, mentioned he was at the Catasauqua Youth Athletic Association field nearby when he got the call. Even though he was only two minutes away, he said that trip felt much longer.
“Thankfully by the time I arrived, Steel had been revived,” he said.
A recognition event was held at the May 10 Catasauqua Area School District Board of Education meeting to honor everyone who played a part in saving Steel, including Dauberman; Churetta; Cecchini; EMTs Christopher Peischl, Jamie Slotter, Suzette Lydick and Scott Greenawalt; police officers Brandon Gianopulos, Rebecca Saborsky and Brian Douglas; Palermo; Pepe; CMS nurses Donna Tercha and Terri Bastow; and CMS Principal Melissa Inselmann.
Taking part in the recognition event was Rachel Moyer. Moyer’s son Gregory was 15 when, in December 2000, he collapsed during a basketball game in the East Stroudsburg Area School District. Since the school did not have any AEDs on property and cellphones were not as prevalent, Gregory’s story did not have a happy ending. Moyer said it took nearly 45 minutes after his cardiac arrest for emergency responders to arrive, and Gregory died.
From that moment forward, Moyer’s mission has been to get AEDs in every school.
To bring the story full circle, the superintendent of East Stroudsburg at the time of Gregory’s death was Kenneth Koberlein, Steel’s grandfather. Koberlein worked with Moyer to spread the awareness and importance of AEDs in schools.
His actions 21 years ago helped save the life of his grandson.
Moyer and her daughter Abbie attended the May 10 meeting and announced they are donating another AED to the district, through the Gregory W. Moyer Defibrillator Fund and Zoll, the company Abbie Moyer works for.
Krista Martell noted Steel spent a week at CHOP recovering. To celebrate his homecoming, a family friend organized a parade throughout North Catasauqua and Catasauqua boroughs. It was noted Thomas Moll, director of student activities, lit up the scoreboard at the sports stadium welcoming Steel home as well.
Superintendent of Schools Robert Spengler noted how proud he was of the staff and their lifesaving actions.
“We literally witnessed a miracle,” Spengler said.
He noted, as an administrator, he tries to be prepared for everything, budget properly and offer extensive training for the staff.
“You never want something like this to happen, but we were prepared,” he said.
Kyle and Krista Martell could not thank the school staff and administration, as well the emergency responders, enough for their efforts.
“CASD is small, but it accomplishes big things,” Kyle Martell said. “It’s an extraordinary testament to the staff.”