Nurse, student-athlete whose life she saved reunite to educate others on CPR

Three years ago, a Tampa nurse was at a sports tournament to watch her son play baseball, but she ended up saving the life of a Marion County student-athlete.

Wednesday, the student and the woman who saved him reunited to share their story - both of survival and why knowing CPR is so important.

Katie Patel said she first met Patrick Plunkett, Jr. on a baseball field at an all-star tournament on July 1, 2017. Patel’s son was playing in the same tournament when she saw Patrick go into cardiac arrest on the field.

“In the third or fourth inning, I was pitching and one of the Key West players hit a line drive back at me and it hit me,” said 15-year-old Patrick Plunkett, Jr.

As an emergency room nurse at Memorial Hospital in Tampa, Patel immediately jumped into action.

“I was checking his pulse and he didn’t have a pulse, so immediately I started doing chest compressions,” said Patel. “We did resuscitate him, which honestly was a miracle, as far as I’m concerned ”

No AED machines were on that field in Ocala that day, and Patel said chances of survival in a similar situation without one are slim.

“Without her, I may not be here right now,” said Patrick.

Patel wanted to make sure student-athletes in Hillsborough County are protected.

She worked with her alma mater, Walden University’s Mobilize for Good program and got the college to donate AED machines to Lennard High School in Ruskin. Students at Lennard were also given training on CPR from staff at Memorial Hospital.

“I just want to have that never happen here, and so I’m happy to have Walden help give you guys this equipment,” said Patel.

Patrick’s parents are thankful children will be safer.

“You hear about these statistics of children that this happens to, and it’s typically in gyms or it’s around the school that there are not AED machines,” said Patrick's father, Patrick Plunkett, Sr. “Katie being there was paramount to our son’s survival and his health today.”

His family is encouraging everyone to learn those life-saving skills.

“You could be walking in public and something could happen where it would come in handy to know CPR and save someone’s life,” said Patrick.

Patel said cardiac arrest is the leading cause of death among student-athletes. Coaches and staff at Lennard High School learned how to do CPR so they can help any students if necessary.