ELYRIA, Ohio (WJW) – A longtime basketball referee who collapsed at a local high school in January says he is alive because of the quick actions of a group of good Samaritans.
After officiating the first half of a game between Elyria and Avon Lake, 52-year-old referee George Jackson Jr. began feeling ill in the locker room at Elyria High School.
“I was trying to get myself together. I felt this funny feeling in my throat. I remember pulling the door open, I had a minute 43 seconds to get back on the floor, and that’s all I recall,” he said.
Witnesses saw Jackson collapse in a hallway just outside the gym, and that’s when Elyria athletic trainer Laura Breese jumped into action.
“I found that he was breathing with what we call agonal respiration, so not normal breathing, almost sounds like snoring and he did not have a carotid pulse when I checked his pulse,” Breese said.
Breese began CPR and a registered nurse sitting in the stands, Megan Edwards, saw a coach grabbing an AED and quickly volunteered to help.
“We began two-person CPR, where she was doing compressions and I was doing breaths with a one-way valve, and our coaches got the AED ready for her and she put the AED on the patient and we defibrillated him,” said Breese.
They continued until Jackson began breathing on his own. He says he came to in the back of a life squad.
“I’m fighting how they had me locked down on the gurney, and they said, ‘George, George, calm down. You passed out at the game,'” he said.
Doctors at the UH Elyria Medical Center discovered that Jackson had a 99% blockage in one of the arteries leading to his heart. The next day, they put in a stent to remove the blockage.
Doctors believe he will make a full recovery.
“I eat right and I exercise, so it was hard to believe that it happened to me,” he said.
At the Elyria School Board meeting on Wednesday, Jackson was able to thank Edwards, Breese and an entire team of coaches and first responders who helped save his life.
“It was really overwhelming. It was just really an emotional time, you know, they greeted me with joy and tears, just saying, ‘you’re alive, you’re alive,’” he said.
All involved believe there are valuable lessons we can learn from the night Jackson collapsed and was revived by his guardian angels.
“If you’re feeling any kind of funny way that’s abnormal to you, just take the time and get it checked out, so you can potentially avoid what I went through,” said Jackson.
“Everybody go get CPR training. It’s easy, it’s not hard to do. There’s classes all over the place. Know where the AED is, know how to use it, don’t be afraid of it. The machine does the work for you. It’s simple and every school should have an athletic trainer,” said Breese.
As he continues to recover, Jackson is hoping to return to refereeing within the next couple of weeks.