Volleyball coach honored for efforts in medical emergency

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COLUMBIA – The Missouri State Highway Patrol honored a local volleyball coach Friday for her actions during a medical emergency at Columbia College in August.

During a Cougar Club basketball game on Aug. 8, a man lost consciousness and stopped breathing.

Trooper Brandon Harris was just walking into the gym to play basketball when the man collapsed.

“It didn’t look normal to me. No one was around him, so I went over to him and he had very heavy, labored breathing,” Harris said. “I rolled him back over, checked his pulse. There was no pulse. I didn’t get a heartbeat.”

The college’s volleyball coach, Melinda Wrye-Washington, was in the athletic training room when she heard what was happening and jumped into action.

“I did a few rounds of chest compressions, and that’s when Coach Washington came in, and she ran and got the AED,” Harris said. An AED is a automated external defibrillator, which can help diagnose heart issues and even restore a regular heartbeat during cardiac arrest. 

Wrye-Washington helped Harris attach the AED to the victim, and it instructed them to give the victim a shock.

After one shock, the AED instructed Harris to administer chest compressions. He continued CPR until the victim started to breathe again.

“Between the chest compressions and the shock, we got him to come back,” Wrye-Washington said.

The victim later regained consciousness at University Hospital. Harris said the cause of the collapse was cardiac arrest.

“I believe that it was a sudden cardiac arrest,” he said. “So it was just a blessing that we were there in that situation because if we hadn’t been there, the doctor said that he wouldn’t have made it.”

Wrye-Washington said it was the college’s yearly training that helped her react quickly to the situation.

“I’ve had training, but it’s the first time I’ve actually used the real AED,” she said. “I’m very fortunate that at Columbia College, we do the training every single year.”

For her efforts during the emergency, Wrye-Washington received the highway patrol’s Honorary Trooper certificate.

“It’s great to have that part of things, and even better to know that John’s okay today,” she said.