Lehigh Valley, Pa.,
02:50 PM

True Team Effort Saves Bernville Man After Sudden Cardiac Arrest at His Daughter’s Basketball Game

As the winter Olympic Games were getting underway in South Korea on Saturday, Feb. 10, iconic American snowboarder Shaun White was preparing for what would be a gold medal run several days later. That same day, 44-year-old Shawn White of Bernville, Pa. was attending a basketball tournament to watch and cheer for his daughter, Natane, at Brandywine Heights Middle School in Topton, Berks County.

White, who was previously diagnosed with Atrial fibrillation, or A-fib, an irregular, often rapid heart rate that commonly causes poor blood flow, wasn’t feeling well throughout the game. When it ended, he was headed outside to get some air but had to stop and sit in a chair in the hallway. Fearing the worst, White asked his wife who was nearby to call 911. The last thing he remembered was he passed out.

“I thought it was the A-fib at first,” White said, “but this was ten times worse.” Before passing out he said he began having tightness in his chest and especially in his jaw.

Fortunately for him, Melissa Hahn, an emergency room (ER) nurse at Lehigh Valley Hospital-Cedar Crest in Allentown, who also happened to be at the game, was nearby and determined he did not have a pulse. But this was only the beginning of the team effort to help White, who was in sudden cardiac arrest.

Others pitched in, too. Kerry Snyder, a teacher at Oley Middle School, and a basketball coach, quickly began doing hands-only CPR. He knew from the classes he takes each year as a coach that the most important thing was to begin compressions. Ironically, this wasn’t the first time Snyder had to do CPR. Years earlier, his brother had died from a heart attack while Snyder was administering CPR to him.

Amanda Potteiger, the wife of Brandywine Heights Area School District superintendent, Andrew Potteiger, was the organizer of the basketball tournament and immediately located the automated external defibrillator (AED) kept at the school for emergencies like this and brought it to White’s aid.

That’s when Shawn Habakus, a local dentist jumped in. Using the AED, he shocked White back into normal heart rhythm as Topton EMS arrived on the scene.

White was transported to the Lehigh Valley Heart Institute at LVH-Cedar Crest in Allentown where he received three stents and an S-ICD under the care of another team led by J. Patrick Kleaveland, MD, cardiologist, and fellow cardiologist Nghia Hoang, DO.

The S-ICD System is a Subcutaneous (under the skin) Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator for people who are at risk of sudden cardiac arrest. Unlike a transvenous ICD, in which leads are fed into the heart through a vein and attached to the heart wall, which raises the risk of complications, the electrodes of the S-ICD are placed just under the skin and not in the heart, leaving the heart and veins untouched and intact.

White left the hospital six days later. “I’m feeling real good,” he said. “I’m still just a little sore from the chest compressions.”

Since he works in construction, White hopes to recover from the chest soreness before he returns to his job. But he has been able to attend all of his daughter’s basketball games since he left the hospital.

However, the impact of White’s episode runs even deeper. As a result of the incident, Mr. Potteiger, the superintendent, has changed the signage to call even more attention to the location of the school’s AEDs. He also added location notes inside the AEDs to help people who might be on the phone with first responders know the address and location of the incident on school property.

“That was a big change for us,” Potteiger said. “Getting information to emergency responders was a quick change we could make. It’s something we probably never would have thought of.”

About LVHN

Lehigh Valley Health Network includes eight hospital campuses - three in Allentown including the region's only facility dedicated to orthopedic surgery, one in Bethlehem, one in Hazleton, two in Pottsville, and one in East Stroudsburg; 22 health centers caring for communities in five counties; numerous primary and specialty care physician practices throughout the region; pharmacy, imaging, home health services and lab services; and preferred provider services through Valley Preferred. Specialty care includes: trauma care at the region’s busiest, most-experienced trauma center treating adults and children, burn care at the regional Burn Center, kidney and pancreas transplants; perinatal/neonatal, cardiac, cancer care, and neurology and complex neurosurgery capabilities including national certification as a Comprehensive Stroke Center. Lehigh Valley Children’s Hospital, the only children’s hospital in the region, provides care in 28 specialties and general pediatrics. Lehigh Valley Health Network has been recognized by U.S. News & World Report for 22 consecutive years as one of America’s Best Hospitals. Lehigh Valley Hospital–Cedar Crest, Lehigh Valley Hospital–17th Street and Lehigh Valley Hospital–Muhlenberg are national Magnet hospitals for excellence in nursing. LVHN’s Cancer Institute is a formal member of the Memorial Sloan Kettering (MSK) Cancer Alliance, a transformative initiative to improve the quality of care and outcomes for people with cancer in community health care settings, including access to key MSK clinical trials. Additional information is available by visiting LVHN.org, or following us on Facebook and Twitter.