ST. PAUL, Minn. — Lindsey Paradise was watching her classmates from Fridley High School play Simley on Thursday night. They were up by 16 points when the boy’s basketball game came to a halt: A referee collapsed on the Fridley court.
Paradise’s quick thinking — the 16-year-old helped administer CPR and operate a defibrillator — saved the official’s life. Dale Wakasugi, 49, of Woodbury, is recovering from cardiac arrest, and Paradise was the game’s most valuable spectator.
Paradise said she heard her mother gasp, with about five minutes left in the game. She looked away from the action on the court and saw Wakasugi on the ground, motionless. That’s all it took for the high school junior and Fridley resident to jump up from the upper bleachers and into action.
“She flew from the stands and slid on her knees right up to him,” her twin sister, Alyssa, said. “Just by looking at her, you could tell that she was in a zone.”
Paradise, who received training on how to operate a defibrillator last month at school and through the Fridley police youth Explorer program, said instinct took over.
“I ran down to the court and knew that you’re not supposed to touch him right away,” she said. “I heard and saw his head hitting the floor. And then two parents came over to us.”
Paradise remembered she had a plastic CPR face shield in her purse.
“I ran back up there, grabbed it and ran back,” she said. She put the face shield on Wakasugi and helped three others, including two parents who are nurses, perform CPR. “I was holding his airway open and was checking for a pulse,” she said.
But the four rounds of CPR didn’t work. The referee had no pulse.
Paradise ordered a spectator to grab the automated external defibrillator hanging on a nearby wall. She and others checked to see if the machine registered a pulse rate before administering a shock, something she learned in training.
Alyssa Paradise said the gym was so quiet she could hear the defibrillator’s voice prompts echoing throughout the facility.
Lindsey Paradise put one defibrillator pad on Wakasugi’s chest, and another good Samaritan put one on his side. He was shocked and started to come around. He regained a pulse.
“I saw his chest going up and down,” Paradise said. “We were talking to him, saying, ‘Keep breathing, Dale,’ and we were trying to comfort him.”
Rescue personnel then took over and gave Wakasugi oxygen, lifted him onto a stretcher and wheeled him to an ambulance. The game was suspended and likely won’t resume.
Wakasugi was conscious before being rushed to Unity Hospital in Fridley, something that amazed firefighter and EMT Renee Hamdorf, one of the first responders at the scene. She said Paradise’s quick action saved his life.
“It’s rare that they wake up that quickly,” Hamdorf said, “and I would attribute that to the care that was given to him so quickly … She was just a high school kid who jumped to help. Not too often does a high school student step up and help a complete stranger. It’s very impressive.”
Wakasugi underwent surgery at Mercy Hospital in Coon Rapids to repair a blocked artery. He was in fair condition Sunday and is scheduled to go home today.
Surrounded by family and friends, Wakasugi said doctors told him CPR would not have been enough to revive him. “If this girl didn’t have the wherewithal to stay calm and know how to run that defibrillator, I wouldn’t be here,” he said. “CPR wouldn’t have done it. I’m just grateful.”
Wakasugi, a clinical oncology specialist, and his wife, Katy, said they want to contact Paradise and meet her soon.
Paradise, who aspires to be a police officer, said she was relieved to learn that Wakasugi is doing well.
“People kept telling me that I saved his life, but it was not just me,” she said. “I was just glad I was able to help. But I’m glad he is alive and can be home for the holidays.”
Nick Ferraro can be reached at [email protected] or 651-228-2173.
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