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Irving ISD Honors Heroes: Arlington ISD Trainer, Dallas Firefighter Acknowledged for Saving Nimitz Basketball Player's Life

Irving ISD Supt Magda Hernandez, Bryant Grice, Kayla Thompson and Kenneth Zacharie Jr.

At the Monday night Irving ISD trustee meeting, Lamar High School Head Athletic Trainer Bryant Grice and Dallas Firefighter Kenneth Zacharie Jr. were honored for their instrumental roles in saving the life of Nimitz High School basketball player Kayla Thompson last fall.

The incident occurred during a girls’ basketball game between Lamar and Nimitz in early November. Grice, who was at a different gym within the school, received a call for help from Nimitz basketball coach Errin Levels during warmups when one of the Nimitz players collapsed.

Upon arriving, Grice initially thought the player had a seizure. Finding her unresponsive, he called for an AED (Automated External Defibrillator). Coincidentally, in the stands, Kenneth Zacharie Jr., husband of Nimitz basketball coach April Zacharie and a Dallas firefighter, was present.

Grice commenced CPR on the athlete, while Zacharie prepared the AED. The life-saving efforts required three rounds of CPR, three administrations of the AED, and the arrival of paramedics before Kayla Thompson finally regained a normal heart rhythm. She has since been able to recover from the harrowing incident.

Reflecting on the experience, Grice acknowledged the crucial role played by Zacharie, emphasizing that it was not mere happenstance. Grice, trained in CPR and AED use, expressed gratitude for the positive outcome and downplayed personal recognition, stating, “I was doing my job. It’s our duty to react and respond in those situations.”

Despite his 12 years at Lamar, Grice had never before needed to use an AED. 

Reflecting on the remarkable turn of events, Zacharie shared, "God put the right people in the right place at the right time. The reason why: I'm usually not on time for games. I usually get there in the first quarter, but that time I told my boys let's go and get there early. We got there for the warm-ups and that's when it happened," in an interview with channel 4 news.

Following the incident, Kayla Thompson was transported Code 3 to Texas Health Arlington Memorial and later transferred to Cook Children's Fort Worth for further care.

Zacharie expressed the hope that everyone receives American Heart Association CPR training and emphasized the importance of businesses having an AED, stating, "That's important because CPR and AEDs save lives and all of us can attest to that."

Despite her recovery, Kayla will not be able to participate in Nimitz's basketball season this year.  Our thoughts are with Kayla, and we wish her well in her full recovery.

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