Quick thinking and teamwork lead to good results on the basketball court.

In the grandest of schemes, it can also save lives.

Alonzo Jones Jr. saw it May 8 at Lake Station, when his great nephew Nathan Perry, collapsed during an open gym session at the high school.

"I'm a war veteran. I've seen a lot of people freak out in the heat of the moment," Jones said. "It was great to see people trust their training, not hesitate and confidently do what needs to be done. If the three of them hadn't done what they did, he wouldn't have survived."

The people Jones referenced were athletic trainer Taylor Shoemake, Lake Station Athletic Director Jason Hawkins and Lake Station Police officer Brian Williams, who acted a professional urgency in providing Perry the critical medical attention. Officer Daniel Perryman was also on the scene, though in the heat of the moment, Jones was not aware.

"They were in sync, one doing one thing and the others another," Jones said. "The doctor told (the family) if (Perry) hadn't been at school, he would have died."

Perry, 17, a junior at 21st Century Charter, was sitting on the bleachers, talking to other players. Jones said he had just told Perry he would be going back in to the game in a minute. He was facing the court when he heard a thud, looking down to see Perry on the ground, having a seizure.

"He was fine (before)," Jones said, "I'd never heard of him having any problems."

Jones rolled Perry over to his back and instructed his son Jared Jones to call Perry's father and another player, Zach Catlin, to call 911. William Fulton, another coach on hand, remembered there was a track meet going on at the school, so he ran to get Shoemake, who arrived with Williams, and began performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation on Perry. Jones said that Perry's heart had stopped beating, so Hawkins rushed to bring the defibrillator. It was used to twice on Perry to shock his heart.

Perry was taken to St. Mary Medical Center, where Jones said he had six seizures while in the emergency room, the result of his heart pumping at a rate of 190 beats per minute.

"We made a big circle in the parking lot and prayed," Jones said. "We knew it was in God's hands."

From Hobart, Perry was airlifted to Indianapolis, where his niece, Perry's mom, Shanell Haywood, told Jones that Perry had stabilized.

"He was breathing on his own," Jones said. "He was complaining about the tubes in his throat. He wasn't feeling any pain. He was in a regular room, talking."

Jones said Perry has a previously undetected heart condition and is awaiting surgery to have a defibrillator implanted. Sadly, he will not be able to play basketball again, but there is a much bigger picture here, the fact that Perry is still alive.

"This is a life-changing experience," Jones said.

For Jones, who works for a medical supplies company, another important part of this story is the availability and training of defibrillators for circumstances such as this one.

"It's important for people to know how to use these," he said.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at james.peters@nwi.com


Sports reporter

Jim was keeping standings on his chalkboard from the time he could print and keeping kickball stats in grade school at St. Bridget's. He covers all manner of prep sports for The Times and is a long-suffering Chicago Cubs fan.