April 21, 2011
Angel Carter and Joey Spann, along with other responders at the game.
As the wife of Lipscomb High School's basketball coach, David Carter, Angel Carter counted herself rivals with Joey Spann, basketball coach for Goodpasture Christian School.
But at halftime during a game on Friday, Feb. 25, the rivalry between the Lipscomb Bisons and the Goodpasture Cougars evaporated. Instead, Angel ran to coach Spann's side - in order to save his life.
A long-time critical care nurse at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt, Angel serves as assistant manager for Patient Care Services on the sixth floor. She is accustomed to responding to emergencies and dealing with pressure.
"But this was hard," Angel said. "I wasn't able to talk to anyone about it until now. It was traumatic, but it was a miracle."
Angel said the Lipscomb and Goopasture teams had a particularly tough game that night. As half time came to a close, Coach Spann walked by her husband, David, saying something offhanded and typically smart-alecky.
"David said it wasn't a moment later he heard Joey's head hit the floor," she recalled.
Angel heard friends shouting her name.
Her reflexes kicked in.
She ran to the court where a crowd was gathering. Three other nurses and a doctor surrounded Coach Spann, who had no pulse.
"It was surreal from that moment on. Everyone jumped into a role and it became just like an emergency room right there on the court," Angel said.
Someone called 911, while the Lipscomb athletics trainer sent for the automated external defibrillator (AED) and Angel and the other the nurses began CPR.
"It was absolutely silent in there," Angel recalled. "And that hit me later: This was a man I knew, and there must have been 300 people there who could clearly hear what was going on."
The AED arrived shortly after one minute. It was Angel who put the AED pads on Spann's chest.
"It did its thing, man. It jumped him off the floor, and we started CPR again, but he started coming around then," Angel said.
She and the other rescuers say it was the AED that made all the difference. By the time EMS arrived, Spann was already waking up and able to answer questions. He had a strong pulse and those around him knew he had a good chance.
"It was a miracle. He was gone. The doctor who was there kept checking his eyes and they were fixed and dilated until the AED shocked him. Then he was back," Angel said.
The next day, Spann had quadruple bypass surgery.
Within a few weeks, Spann had recovered enough to attend an event to thank his rescuers and speak to the media about the importance of CPR and AEDs. Coach Spann told the group his experience had changed him and he no longer cared so much about rivalries.
Angel says she is happy to put rivalries aside too, and to take a moment to talk about a difficult moment for her as an example of how a person's simple actions can save a life.
© 2016 Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt