D'IBERVILLE, MS (WLOX) - A near tragedy earlier this week has strengthened Harrison County School District officials' belief in the importance of having defibrillators close at hand. Athletic Director Michael Gavin said football player Tyler Free remains in hospitalized in Jackson as doctors try to figure out why the ninth grader collapsed during a junior varsity game in D'Iberville.
After the 15-year-old Ocean Springs player fell out, Harrison County's athletic trainer Keith Ganey ran to the young man's side.
"I saw an Ocean Springs athlete collapse to the field face first," said Ganey. "His breathing was compromised at that time and then there was no pulse."
While some coaches ran to dial 911, other coaches ran to the field house to get the automated electronic defibrillator.
"We started chest compressions, and by the time we got about 20 compressions, the AED was out there," said Ganey. "I think that was the key thing on saving this kid's life."
Harrison County's athletic director agrees. The district is working to get this technology in all its gyms and stadiums.
"Most of our high schools and elementary schools all have them in the nurse's office in case they are used for any emergency," said Athletic Director Michael Gavin. "But we're also in the process of making sure our middle schools have them in the gym and in practice. Also at all of our athletic facilities."
School officials said they're happy the player is recovering because they are well aware this could have ended differently.
"This was a case where a young man was playing football," Gavin said. "He had had a physical and it seemed that everything was okay. You never know when someone might fall out. I understand about three years ago we had a young man in PE class at North Gulfport that fell out. If we had had a defibrillator there at that time we might have been able to save his life."
A D'Iberville football player died after collapsing during a game in Gautier.
"We remember two years ago when we lost Fred Dunbar over at Gautier," said Gavin. "That's deep on everybody's mind every time we have a game. That started a lot of the process of getting these defibrillators available. I know the Kiwanis Club has done a lot of work to make sure we get some financing so these are available to our schools."
The athletic director said on Monday all Harrison County coaches will undergo training to refresh their certification for CPR and also learn to properly use the defibrillators.
WLOX News spoke to Tyler Free's family Friday morning. A benefit account has been set up to help with the teen's medical expenses. If you'd like to donate, just visit any Bancorp South branch and ask for the "Benefit for Tyler Free."