Jackson Reed, a junior at Century High School in Eldersburg, was participating in physical training during his JROTC class Jan. 8 inside the wrestling room. About 20 minutes into class, he collapsed.
Two instructors tended to him, the school resource officer, Master Deputy Demonte Harvey, and school nurse Lynn Runk rushed to the scene, as did Principal Brian Booz.
They thought the 17-year-old Reed was having a seizure, then noticed he wasn’t breathing. Both Runk and Harvey administered chest compressions, 9-1-1 was called and a defibrillator was used.
“Lynn and Demonte were relentless,” Booz said as he recounted the events during a Carroll County Board of Education meeting Wednesday. “No hesitation, no pause, no second guessing.”
Runk and Harvey were recognized and given certificates for helping save Reed’s life. School officials referred to them as heroes and begged Sheriff Jim DeWees, who was also present, not to promote Harvey so he doesn’t leave his post at Century.
Booz, who spoke to a room full of people inside the board room, said it felt like it took 185 minutes for emergency services to arrive, but it was about nine minutes. After 30 or 40 minutes of emergency services personnel from Winfield Fire Company working on Reed, he started breathing. He was later taken to Johns Hopkins Hospital.
“It was the scariest moment because I thought the worst was going to happen,” Booz said.
While a few speakers held back tears recounting the events, Reed started his address with humor.
“Hello, I am the boy who lived, Harry Potter,” he said.
Reed said he thought he would one day be in the board room under different circumstances: “I didn’t think it would be because I died.”
He went on to say that God had a plan and if he wasn’t in school that day, the first week students returned for two-day-a-week in-person learning, he would not have made it. He credited Harvey, Runk, Booz, JROTC instructor First Sergeant Walter Sitarek, instructional assistant Brian Hollingsworth and Winfield Fire Company for saving his life.
He said they are not normal people, but heroes.
“I hope that if anyone has a medical emergency like me, that you’re at Century High School because that’s one of the safest places in the world,” Reed said.
He said later they still do not know what caused him to collapse.
Reed was accompanied by his younger brother and parents. His dad, Tommy Reed, shared his point of view from that day. He said as a salesman, it’s been tough to read people’s faces due to masks, but he can read their eyes.
“When they called us to the school, I knew immediately the severity of the situation by reading people’s eyes,” he said while choking back tears. “We thought we lost him.”
He thanked Harvey, Runk and Booz for saving his son’s life.
Before Carroll County Commissioner President Ed Rothstein, R-District 5, presented certificates and a “challenge coin” to Harvey and Runk, he thanked them for stepping into “the line of fire.”
School board Vice President Ken Kiler called the situation a miracle and told Reed’s parents they have a lot to be proud of.
“I feel like we should make a motion to adjourn because it’s not going to get better than this,” he said.
Fellow board member Tara Battaglia said it was an incredible story, heartwarming and the type of story that show good things can come from a bad situation. Board member Patricia Dorsey said the story makes her think about the gift of life.