The EGHS Boys Volleyball team sends a message to their teammate and friend, Anthony Petrone, upon his return home.
Next Friday, Anthony Petrone will don his tuxedo, meet his date, pose for loads of photos and go to prom with friends and classmates from East Greenwich High School.
One month ago, when he was lying in the intensive care unit at Hasbro Children’s Hospital, prom wasn’t even on the radar.
Anthony collapsed during volleyball practice at East Greenwich High School March 31. School athletic trainer Tim Crandall’s swift use of a defibrillator jolted the 17-year-old’s heart back into action. He then spent two weeks at Hasbro, where they placed a defibrillator in his chest. According to Anthony’s parents, Keelin and Joe Petrone, the doctors haven’t yet identified his heart ailment, but results from genetic tests will give them that information soon.
It’s been a scary several weeks, starting at the moment Keelin got the news that Anthony had collapsed.
“I got the call from Keelin at 3:30,” recalled Joe. “Parent intuition said to me this was something major. When I walked into the emergency room at Kent, they were trying to stabilize him…. The staff told me I couldn’t see him yet and I said, ‘I’m his father and I’m going to see him.’”
Once at Hasbro, Joe, Keelin and Keelin’s dad, Bill Daly, kept vigil.
“The children’s hospital was great,” said Joe. After being discharged from Hasbro, Anthony spent two weeks at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Charlestown, Mass. He doesn’t remember collapsing or the time at Hasbro. At Spaulding, however, he began to return to himself.
“They were excellent. They took such good care of him,” said Joe. It was a huge relief to see Anthony’s progress, even if that meant he started acting like a teenager again.
“If you have to discipline him, that’s a good thing. That means he’s back,” a nurse told Keelin.
Anthony’s first goal was to attend prom and he’s gotten the go-ahead for that. His next goal is to return to EGHS for his senior year in September. For the rest of this school year, he will be tutored at Sargent Rehab in Warwick.
“He’s working really hard,” said Keelin.
Anthony did return to the high school for the Boys Volleyball game against Classical, where the Avengers continued their unbeaten record, beating Classical 3-0. After their victory the next day against Toll Gate, the Avengers league record stands at 11-0.
“It was awesome. Seeing everyone again was great,” Anthony said. “I saw Tim also … and I gave him a huge hug and thanked him,” he said, referring to athletic trainer Crandall, who the Petrones credit for saving Anthony’s life.
“Having Tim at the scene made all the difference in the world,” said Joe. Tim and the defibrillator, that is. The Petrones want to make sure other schools have AEDs (automated external defibrillators).
All public buildings in East Greenwich have an AED on site – both school and town buildings, according to Fire Chief Russell McGillivray.
The high school has two, thanks to the Southeast New England Heart Safe Community, a foundation set up after the death of 14-year-old Michael Monteleone in 2005. The Lincoln High School freshman collapsed during baseball practice and died shortly after. It turned out he had an undiagnosed heart defect. Between 2005 and 2010, the Heart Safe organization donated more than 150 AEDs to high schools and middle schools throughout Rhode Island.
The state health department’s HeartSafe Community Program enrolls cities and towns that have established certain protocols. Despite all the defibrillators, East Greenwich is not a HeartSafe community.
To become one, a community must:
Increase the number of community members Cardio-Pulmonary Resusitation (CPR) trained;
Increase the number of first responders equipped with automated external defibrillators (AEDs); and
Ensure appropriate pre-arrival instructions and optimize the prehospital care system.
The Rhode Island HeartSafe communities are Cumberland, Barrington, Coventry, East Providence, South Kingstown, Warwick, Westerly and Portsmouth.
Even without the HeartSafe designation, the Petrones say they are very grateful for the school and town employees who helped Anthony that grim day.
“Thank you to the entire town,” said Keelin. “For the fire and rescue people and the police. We’ve had a great network of support.”