School Bus Heroes

May 18, 2022

Monday mornings are hectic for Christa Ikard. The Tennessee mother is like most parents who are trying to get their children off to a good start for the school week. But Monday, November 29, 2021, would be become a Monday that Ikard wouldn’t forget anytime soon.

“It was a typical busy morning, and I was just focusing on getting Jacob to school,” said Ikard who recalls how her 14-year-old son, who was late going to the stop where his school bus picks him up for class every weekday morning, had complained earlier of having a stomachache. “I didn’t think much of it because he complained about the same thing last week and he was fine,” said Ikard with a chuckle. “I just thought he wanted to stay home.”

Ikard eventually won the battle of going to school or not going to school and Jacob was sent off on the bus, but his ride was cut short when he suddenly experienced a medical attack.

“I got a phone call not too long after he had left, informing me of Jacob’s condition, and I could hear a child screaming, ‘is that kid okay,’” said Ikard. “The bus was less than a mile away from my home, according to the tracker I set on Jacob’s phone, so it didn’t take long for me to drive to where he was. And as soon as I got there, I saw the AMR crew driving him away.”

The Knox County American Medical Response (AMR) team arrived at the school bus immediately after getting the emergency dispatch. Paramedic Bradley Rowe said he had no idea what he and his partner, Jeremy would be facing, but knew something was strange when he saw the school bus’ hazards lights flash of and on. “Even though we weren’t told that a child was involved, I just got a gut feeling something was wrong,” said Rowe. “I got on the bus and immediately saw the boy. He was blue and had no pulse. I was able to carry him off the bus and put him on the ground, where I performed manual CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) on him before obtaining ROSC (return of spontaneous circulation),” recalls Rowe. 
The intervention stabilized Jacob, who was then immediately transported to nearby Tennova North Knoxville Medical Center in Powell, before being transferred to East Tennessee Children’s Hospital in Knoxville, which was better suited to handle emergencies dealing with children. Rowe, who followed up on Jacob’s condition while he was being treated at East Tennessee in Knoxville, learned Jacob had received a pacemaker defibrillator, which he says will help him in his recovery.
Jacob has since been transferred to Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt in Nashville, where he’s currently staying for further treatment.
“I can’t fully express how grateful I am,” said a tearful Ikard. “I can’t imagine my life without Jacob, and that could have happened if it weren’t for the AMR team that worked on him while he was on the school bus. To think, we had just celebrated Thanksgiving and my birthday (November 27) and were making plans for Christmas when all this happened. It just makes you really count your blessings.”

Rowe is also grateful. He’s grateful that the outcome was favorable. “I’m glad I was able to respond,” he said. “Kids are a comfort zone for me. I have dealt with sick kids before, so I was okay with dealing with this situation as well. It’s really cool to see a situation all the way through like this one.”

Today, Jacob is progressing well, playing basketball and staying active as he had done prior to his hospitalization. 

“His prognosis looks good,” said Ikard, who adds that she’s also thankful that Jacob didn’t experience any brain damage and that he’s able to talk and hold normal conversations. “Everyone originally thought he suffered a seizure, so it’s good that his motor skills are still functioning well.”

Ikard says in addition to being encouraged with Jacob’s recovery, she’s also appreciative of the AMR crew, who periodically checked on Jacob’s welfare since transporting him to facilities where he could receive more care. The family has since moved to Nashville — the epicenter of many natural water resources—which is even better news for Jacob, who’s always had an interest in marine biology. And thanks to the AMR crew who saved him on that school bus on that Monday morning and other medical professionals who are helping him in his rehabilitation, he can now pursue that interest with even more fervor. 

“Ultimately, this is what we hope we never have to do, but this is why we get into this job in the first place — to make an impact on our community,” said Rowe. “It has been and will forever be the toughest job I’ll ever love.”

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