High school student in Montvale collapses during track practice

Josh Einiger reports from Ridgewood.
March 19, 2014 8:33:43 PM PDT
A 15-year old high school student collapsed during track practice Wednesday in Montvale, New Jersey.

At Pascack Hills High School, coaches have practiced for years, hoping they'd never have to use the portable defibrillator.

But when athlete Anthony Cortazzo collapsed during practice Wednesday afternoon, they knew what to do.

"It was scary. Definitely scary," said Steven Papa, athletic trainer.

Trainer Steve Papa grabbed the device and ran.

He'd been in his office when two students rushed in with the awful news.

Cortazzo, a member of the track and field team, had passed out right on the track.

Some coaches and a student EMT started CPR, but Anthony wasn't breathing and had no pulse.

"I teach CPR and AED training and as many times you go through it you never want to have to do it, especially to a kid," Papa said.

"Racing up the hill my heart was in my throat," said Glenn DeMarrais, the Pascack Hills High School Principal.

But by the time Principal Glenn DeMarrais arrived, the student had been shocked back to life. He was breathing on his own when paramedics rushed him to the hospital.

"Our training and our preparation have saved the student's life," DeMarrais said.

It's been seven years since Pascack Hills invested several thousand dollars in three automatic external defibrillators.

Seven years ahead of other new jersey schools, required by law to have only one, and not until this coming September.

But at the home of the "Cowboys", all that advance preparation paid off. It was a relatively small investment that proved priceless.

"I'm hoping he comes in here a few days from now, a week from now, and I get to shake his hand as he walks through the door. Maybe even give him a little hug too," Papa said, "I don't know if there was an angel on his shoulder, but everything that needed to happen right for him, did."