Van W. Riley
One would never expect that a young, strapping man would collapse on a baseball field. Marina High School baseball coach Darrel Arnold, just 34, went into cardiac arrest. Lucky for Darrel and for all of us that Paul Renfrow, Bob Marshall and Amanda Frank were nearby and took control of the situation immediately.
I am glad to tell you that their training and preparation saved the life of a young baseball coach who the students adore. During an after-school baseball game, one of our walk-on coaches and a district substitute teacher, Darrel reported to Paul that he wasn't feeling well and that something seemed wrong. Darrel sat down on the field and quickly went into severely labored breathing.
Those present thought he might be having some type of seizure. Cardiac arrest didn't seem likely. Unbeknownst to Darrel at the time, he suffers from a genetic condition affecting his heart.
Arriving back in seconds, Bob connected the device to Darrel. The defibrillator analyzed the situation, calling for the administration of a shock. (Defibrillation consists of delivering a therapeutic dose of electrical energy to the heart to get it pumping.) The shock worked. Darrel's heart started and he went into a recovery seizure by the time the paramedics arrived just 8 minutes after the 911 call. The paramedics stabilized Darrel, then transported him by ambulance to Huntington Beach Intercommunity Hospital.
Later transferred to the cardiac unit at Hoag Hospital, Darrel was hospitalized for six days. He now has a pacemaker and defibrillator implanted under the skin that will assist him in the event of another emergency. He is back at work on a limited basis, much to the delight of the students who love him.
"They were excited to see him back - he has great people skills," Paul said. "This was very scary, and Darrel had no clue of his heart condition."
Darrel is a big man, about 6-feet-4-inches tall, and his colleagues describe him as "a gentle giant." All of us are quite pleased, to say the least, with this happy outcome. It proves that training, quick response to action and the right equipment on hand saves lives.
I am proud of our team at Marina. I would like to commend Paul Renfrow, Bob Marshall and Amanda Frank and the parents on hand that day for their decisive actions that apparently saved the life of Darrel Arnold.
Dr. Van W. Riley is superintendent of the Huntington Beach Union High.School District.