A football coach and an eight-year-old student would have died last week in separate incidents at two parish schools had it not been for the quick thinking of nearby school personnel.
At Central Elementary School in Calhoun, eight-year-old Nate Wallace was stung by a yellow jacket and saved from a life-threatening episode of anaphylactic shock by school system nurse Sonja Bamburg.
At Ouachita Parish High School, assistant coach Randy Douglas collapsed at football practice before athletic trainer Phillip Shaw reacted immediately to resuscitate him.
The two incidents occurred on the same day, Aug. 26.
“It all happened the same day. The same day,” said Ouachita Parish School Board member Dabo Graves. “We had two incidents, with trained personnel who saved two people’s lives.”
“Whatever the cost to us in money to have them there, it was well worth it to save two lives,” he added.
The School Board is expected to honor Bamburg and Shaw during an upcoming board meeting.
For Tara Wallace, Nate’s mother, Bamburg’s work in treating her son’s anaphylactic shock was nothing short of a miracle.
Her son was playing at the school playground when he went to retrieve a football thrown toward him. On his way to pick up the football, he stepped on a nest of yellow jackets.
“He was stung, and the teacher realized what happened when she saw a yellow jacket stuck to his shirt,” Tara Wallace said. “They rushed him to the nurse, and she immediately called me.”
Bamburg alerted Nate’s mother to his condition, called 911, and administered two EpiPen injections.
“When I say she saved his life, I mean he wouldn’t have survived if she hadn’t been there,” Tara Wallace said. “It’s so important to have these nurses at these schools. If you can just save one child’s life in five years, it’s worth the money to have the nurses at the school.”
“Now we know we need to keep an EpiPen with us, anywhere he goes,” she added.
Graves, School Board member Scotty Waggoner, and Superintendent Don Coker also noted Bamburg’s role in saving Nate Wallace’s life.
“The nurse had to give him not one shot, but two shots, and the doctor told the nurse that only one shot wouldn’t have saved the child,” Graves said. “The kid wouldn’t have made it without the second shot.”
Meanwhile, school officials also recognized Shaw’s quick thinking at Ouachita Parish High School where he saved Douglas’ life after the coach’s collapse.
Douglas, who works with the Ouachita freshmen and was expected to take on a bigger role with the varsity defense this season, fell to the ground as his heart stopped beating during an extra point drill on the freshman field.
Fellow assistant and head baseball coach Josh Morrison said Douglas fell right in front of him, and he immediately called Shaw, who was several yards away on the turf with the varsity.
“(Shaw) wasted no time,” Morrison said. “He got to him quick and immediately started working on him. You want to talk about miracles. That was a miracle.”
Shaw performed CPR on Douglas and shocked him twice with an automated external defibrillator, or AED, before Douglas regained consciousness some 10 minutes later.
“I immediately started performing CPR and had one of the coaches run and get me the AED, which was about 60 or 70 yards away,” Shaw said. “First time I was introduced to CPR was in 1985 and Monday was the first time I ever had to do it on a person. I’ve had friends of mine where it didn’t work out positive. I’m just glad my first experience was a positive one.”
The plan in place worked. Douglas’ life was saved, and an ambulance arrived shortly after to transport Douglas to the hospital. Shaw said he went to the hospital with Douglas and learned from the doctor that Douglas’ collapse was not a result of blockage.
“The doctor told me his electrical system just went haywire,” Shaw said. “We’re fortunate here in Ouachita Parish schools that leadership provides us with the equipment we need. The AED was on site and we had all the training. I’m just happy it happened when it did and where it did. If it happened anywhere else but on that practice field, we may be talking about a different story today.”
Douglas was released from the hospital two days later, and Ouachita head coach Jeff Fitzgerald said he was watching TV and relaxing just days after nearly losing his life.
“You have to be ready at any point and time because you never know when you’ll take your last breath,” Fitzgerald said. “Thankfully Jesus put this man at the right place at the right time for his heart to stop beating.”
There is no timetable set for Douglas to return to the team, as he continues to recover.
“As I understand it, he died on the football field,” Graves said. “And he (Shaw) shocked him back to life. I’m glad Randy’s alright. At nine o’clock that night, he was talking.”
Shaw acknowledged his interactions with Douglas have been “a little different” since the incident.
“We were definitely friends before, but I told him the other day, ‘We’re connected for life now, dude,’” Shaw said.