When Destrehan High School athletic trainer George McGovern arrived at St. Charles Catholic on Sept. 9, where he used to work in that same capacity, he thought he’d have a chance to catch up with some old friends and co-workers. He never thought he’d help save a life.
But that’s exactly what happened that night as McGovern accompanied the Wildcats for their football game at SCC, as he and Destrehan team doctor William Johnson leaped into action to help a St. Charles Catholic fan survive a serious medical emergency.
“I knew the family, knew the patient, and the tough part was seeing them go through it and struggle,” said McGovern. “But we also knew this was a one-time shot, and if we didn’t focus and do what we needed to do, we might not have seen the positive result we did.”
McGovern was on the SCC sideline speaking with his former work colleagues when he noticed a commotion in the stands. Someone called for a doctor, and McGovern raced to the Destrehan sideline to alert Johnson.
“(The patient) didn’t have a pulse, and it was starting to not look good,” McGovern said.
He also retrieved Destrehan’s AED (automated external defibrillator) and hooked the patient up to it as several first responders worked to save the man’s life. They shocked the patient twice, helping to reestablish a pulse.
“For the life of me, I couldn’t tell you how long we were doing it,” McGovern said. “It was a combination (of processing the situation and letting instincts take over). I know the family well, and that weighed on it … but the training took over and let me compartmentalize and focus on the task at hand.”
They were able to transport the patient to a local hospital, where he survived open heart surgery.
“I can’t say enough about the police officers on scene, the EMTs and paramedics, Dr. Johnson … everyone did their job in a high-stress situation, and you couldn’t ask for a better result,” McGovern said.
That he was able to contribute to that result is something he largely credits to his training and the way the St. Charles school system values preparing for even unlikely worst case scenarios. While McGovern has treated patients with serious injuries in the past, he said this was the first time he’d been involved in a situation where an AED or CPR was necessary.
“The AED has automated instructions, but where we were, you can’t hear the machine over the crowd … so the training had to take over,” said McGovern, who teaches students CPR and how to use an AED as part of his class at Destrehan. “We’re required to get recertified every two years, to make sure we’re always up to code.”
He brings an AED with him on the sideline of Destrehan games, both home and away. Each of the St. Charles Parish public high schools has an AED located at a central location of each of its buildings. And anyone associated with any after school activity is required to be AED and CPR certified.
“The parish is really phenomenal about giving us the resources we need,” McGovern said. “If any emergency takes place, everyone knows where they’re at. There’s a comfort level of knowing they’re there and knowing how they work.”McGovern described it as constant preparation that one hopes to never have to put into action, but that night, he did.
He likewise hopes to never have to do it again, that there is no next time — but will prepare for that next time, nonetheless, as he always has.
“I go into a sporting event with bunch of healthy kids, so having to (use CPR or an AED) isn’t a prevalent thing, like a nurse in a hospital would deal with,” he said. “But we’re still trained for it, and I’m glad we have that training going into it.”