The first thing Bob Beron heard were the screams for help.
Something was happening in the bleachers at Smyrna High but the Caesar Rodney High athletic director had no idea what.
“I just noticed fans that were frantically running out of the stands,” said Beron. “I was trying to figure out what was going on.”
At about the same time, Jim Tucker heard the screams, too.
But the CR trainer was across the field at Smyrna. He was on the sidelines of the boys’ soccer state tournament doubleheader being played that night.
“I heard my name, and I thought there was a player down,” said Tucker. “I started onto the field. I took about five steps out there and I’m looking around — I can’t see anybody down. I’m watching the game the whole time and I didn’t see anybody go down.
“Then I heard somebody say, ‘Tucker, we need an AED over here.’”
What happened next occurred in the blink on an eye — probably no more than several minutes.
A handful of people — some who didn’t know each other, and still don’t — acted on instinct and adrenaline to save a stranger’s life.
Because of their actions, one man — the grandfather of a soccer player from another school — got to wake up the next morning, Nov. 12, still very much alive.
The man was lucky to have Beron nearby when he had his heart attack in the stands.
Beron, who is in his first year as CR’s athletic director, had taught a CPR course to high school students for about nine years.
Still, he had never administered it in a real crisis, with a human being’s life on the line.
But, when he heard the screams for help, because of his training, Beron ran into the stands to see what he could do.
Beron saw a man laying on the 12-inch wide, bench-style aluminum bleachers. He also saw a woman — he still doesn’t know who she was — administering CPR.
The man was completely unresponsive.
“Basically, he was showing zero signs of life,” said Beron.
Meanwhile, both Tucker and the Wilmington Charter trainer had sprinted across the field with their AEDs.
The acronym stands for Automated External Defibrillators, a portable device that not only diagnoses cardiac arrhythmias but can then be used to shock the heart back into an effective rhythm.
There was a time when nobody had the device. Now they’re everywhere, says Beron.
“We have at least five in our school,” he said.
Tucker, who says he was basically an observer in the situation, said that, as soon as the AED was in place, it said to administer a shock.
When he was high-school aged, Tucker worked in an emergency room. He’d been been involved in any numbers of critical situations.
He said there was no doubt the man was in a life-or-death crisis.
“He was gone,” said Tucker. “The machine is hooked on him and he’s basically flat-lined. There’s nothing in this guy. He’s not breathing.”
At the time, people were holding the man in place so he didn’t fall off the bench. That would have been dangerous if they were still in contact with him when the shock was given.
Tucker just remembers telling everyone to stand clear.
The first jolt, however, didn’t get the man’s heart back in rhythm.
Beron said they had to do two more minutes of chest compressions before giving him another shock.
This time it worked.
That’s when the ambulance crew took over,
“By the time he left the stadium, he was coherent and talking to the EMTs,” said Tucker. “I’ve never seen that before. His recovery was remarkable.”
And, just like that, the ordeal for everyone at the stadium was over. The games resumed and people went back to watching.
Life went on.
Tucker said he couldn’t even tell you how long it lasted.
“You know, it’ really hard to say, because I never really looked at my watch,” said Tucker. “And it seems like forever when you’re doing those kinds of things. But it was just a matter of a few minutes, probably.”
For Beron, what had just happened didn’t sink in until later.
One minute he was watching a soccer game. The next, he held a human’s life in his hands.
“Basically, when it happened, I felt like my training just stepped right in,” said Beron, who had received his training through the American Red Cross.
“Everything that I practiced, everything that I taught the kids in class, everything that I’d been taught to do. ... it literally didn’t hit me until later on that night when I got home with my wife.
“I was driving home — it’s silent, just me in the car driving back from Smyrna,” he continued. “I’m like, ‘Man...’
“I don’t want to take all the credit ... but the combination of me and some others, we just helped to save someone’s life.”
Odds & ends
•The Wesley College men’s basketball team will get a rare chance to face a Division I program when it faces Elon today at 2 p.m. in North Carolina. The Phoenix are members of the Colonial Athletic Association with Delaware.
•Dover High hosts rival Caesar Rodney in boys’ basketball on Tuesday at 7:15 p.m. The Senators won both last year’s meetings.
•William Penn’s Marvin Dooley (Blue) and Middletown’s Mark Delpercio (Gold) will be the head coaches for the 61st annual Blue-Gold All-Star Football Game. This will be Delpercio’s third time as Gold head coach and the first time for Dooley, who played in the 1987 game.
•Delaware officially announced the signing of Dover High’s Jordan Hutchins to a baseball scholarship this week. Blue Hen coach Jim Sherman had this to say about the Senators’ senior infielder: “Jordan is another extremely athletic player with a ton of upside, We have been following Jordan for a number of years now and he has really progressed every year. He is an explosive runner and he has developed into a very good gap-to-gap type hitter, both of which play very well on our field. We look for great things out of Jordan here at UD.”
•Penn State defensive end Carl Nassib, who won the Lombardi Trophy on Wednesday as the top lineman in college football, is the older brother of Delaware sophomore defensive end John Nassib. Not only do both Nassibs play the same position but both wear jersey No. 95.
•It was somewhat ironic that coach K.C. Keeler’s Sam Houston State squad faced Colgate in the FCS playoffs on Saturday. Colgate, of course, was the team that Delaware beat, 40-0, to win the 2003 I-AA national championship when Keeler was coaching the Blue Hens.