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CPR, defibrillation efforts bring collapsed prep track athlete back to life

Ben Rohrbach
Prep Rally

While New Jersey didn't pass Janet's Law until this year, requiring all schools to have external defibrillators on hand at athletic events come September, it's a good thing Montvale (N.J.) Pascack Hills High purchased three such devices seven years ago, because one saved a 15-year-old track athlete's life on Wednesday.

Pascack Hills junior shot putter and discus thrower Anthony Cortazzo collapsed on the track during practice, according to reports from WABC-TV and CBS 2. He reportedly wasn't breathing and had no pulse, but a series of remarkably fortunate events restored both before paramedics even arrived on the scene.

First, Cortazzo happened to be training with a former Pascack Hills student who is a trained EMT, according to CBS 2. The former student immediately began CPR. Meanwhile, two other students rushed to Pascack Hills athletic trainer Steven Papa's office for help, and he ran to the scene with a portable defibrillator.

"It was scary, definitely scary," Papa, who has taught CPR and AED training courses, told WABC-TV. "As many times you go through it, you never want to have to do it, especially to a kid."

Papa and the former student reportedly traded shock and resuscitation efforts until Cortazzo came back to life, emitting a pulse and breathing on his own as paramedics arrived to take him to a nearby hosptial.

"I'm hoping he comes in here a few days from now, a week from now, and I get to shake his hand as he walks through the door. Maybe even give him a little hug, too," Papa told WABC-TV. "I don't know if there was an angel on his shoulder, but everything that needed to happen right for him, did."

Janet's Law is named after former Warren Township, N.J., cheerleader Janet Zilinski, who died at age 11 from sudden cardiac arrest in 2006. The efforts to save Cortazzo should offer a reminder to schools across the nation not to wait until the law requires external defibrillators. Spend the few thousand dollars now.

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