Covington High School Student Who Had Cardiac Arrest Meets Rescuers

Friday night was homecoming night at Covington High School, but homecoming wasn't the highlight. The school celebrated one of its own.

"I'm just real thankful to have my life today," said 16-year-old Cole Johnson.

On Sept. 9, Cole collapsed at a school pep rally.

"He turned two steps and was down," explained Covington Fire Chief Kevin Karlicek. "Within seconds he quit breathing."

Karlicek and football coach Charles Steele jumped to help. Steele gave mouth-to-mouth, and Karlicek used the AED – automatic electric defibrillator – to get Johnson breathing again.

"Scary, really scary," Steele recalled. "I can handle him never playing sports ever again, as long as I get to see his smiling face every day."

"I didn't feel it coming on," Cole said.

He is one of 10 students in Texas between Aug. 23 and Sept. 23 to go into cardiac arrest. The AED helped save his life.

"It works," said Laura Friend, who runs Project ADAM, which places AEDs in schools across Texas. "A beautiful life saved."

Friend does the work because she's made it her mission.

"Because I have a 12-year-old daughter that we lost in 2004," Friend said, remembering Sarah, who died after cardiac arrest. "We need to save more lives."

Covington crowned its homecoming royalty Friday, but the main focus was on Cole. He and his rescuers were honored before the game. The medical helicopter that rushed him to the hospital landed on the field, and medics presented Cole the game ball.

"People ask me why I'm so quiet now," he said. "I can't sit here and think that I could have lost my life."

The Covington Owls lost their homecoming game, but won where it counts most.

"Thank you," Cole said.

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