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Coach, nurse, firefighter save junior high football player’s life

Cameron Smith
Prep Rally

Everything at the Tuesday evening junior high football game in suburban Dallas Fort Worth was going normally. Azle (Texas) Junior High players were competing in a tough game. Concessions were selling well. Then, in one flash, everything changed.

Azle seventh grader Alex Templeton, a 13-year-old linebacker, took a tough hit from an opponent's foot directly to his chest. According to coaches, he quickly got up, but then began feeling dizzy and collapsed on the field. Immediately, multiple adults at the scene sprung into action, and their quick thinking is now being credited with saving Templeton's life.

According to the Azle News Online, Azle junior high football coach Tim Spoonemore immediately began performing CPR on the collapsed player. While Spoonemore attempted to resuscitate the pre-teen, two other coaches ran off to retrieve automatic electronic defibrillators (AEDs) from the nearby school.

By the time those coaches returned, Spoonemore had been met on the field by an off-duty firefighter, Mike Leatherwood, and a nurse, Rita White, who were trained to use defibrillators. While there are different accounts about which bystander provided the shock which re-started Templeton's heart -- the Azle News and WFAA credited White while MyFoxDFW said Templeton operated the defibrillator -- a life-saving shock was given to Templeton's heart, and he began breathing again by the time a LifeAlert helicopter arrived at the field to fly him to a nearby hospital.

A day later, both White and Templeton expressed joy that the 13-year-old is now improving toward stable condition in a nearby hospital.

"I've been nursing for 26 years and it's kind of automatic mode you get into, then you think about it later," White told the media at a Wednesday press conference about the incident.

The lion's share of credit for saving Templeton's life has rightfully gone to the quick thinking adults who sprung into action, but Azle school district officials also expressed thanks that the district has mandated all coaches take CPR, first aid and AED training each summer. The district has also installed AEDs at each campus.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Azle school district athletic director Scott Anderson said Azle would be ordering more AEDs to make sure one is nearby each facility where it could be needed.

Yet all that technology and training would have been at a loss if not for the cool, quick thinking of an impromptu team of adults who mobilized together to save a young man's life.

"When I saw him getting into the ambulance and breathing, it just made my heart jump out of my body," Spoonmore told the media.

"If you saw all the people out there praying you'd know that this was a community thing."

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