American University of Beirut

This is what a hero looks like: Three CHSC staff members help save a student’s life

​​​​​Jennifer Muller, Office of Communications,​​​​​

On the afternoon of December 18, with final exams behind them, some students were shooting baskets in the Charles Hostler Student Center (CHSC) gymnasium. All of a sudden, one of the students falls to the ground and is no longer breathing. Friends and bystanders rush for help.

On the next court over, sports facility attendant Rabih Makouk is putting up volleyball nets and immediately goes to check the pulse of the unconscious young man. At the same time, Elias Nghaywe (a part-time physiotherapist) and Yehia Shehab (also a sports facility attendant) are alerted from the front desk personnel. Elias finds the prone student has a very weak pulse and realizes that the AED is needed.  At the same moment, Yehia arrives with the AED in hand and quickly applies the electrodes and begins CPR.

After the first electric shock is delivered from the AED, the young man's heart starts beating again. Elias, Yehia, and Rabih continue CPR, taking turns and following the instructions being given by the AED machine.  After a few minutes, a medical doctor arrives in response to the CHSC staff who called in the emergency.  The doctor makes sure that the patient is stable and, with the help of Protection officers, moves him to a waiting ambulance that transports the patient to AUBMC.

Thanks to the quick thinking and efficient response of Rabih, Elias, and Yehia, this young student in the prime of his life has a second chance.  He is now out of the hospital, recovering well, and very thankful to all those who helped him. As he told us:

“They literally saved my life. How many people get to say that? What more can one ask for? I am infinitely grateful to every person that helped the circumstances turn to my favor, from the person that bought the AED to the person that used it correctly on me."


The right tool in the right hands

An AED, or automated external defibrillator, is used to help those experiencing sudden cardiac arrest, according to the Red Cross. It is a sophisticated, yet easy-to-use, medical device that can analyze the heart's rhythm and, if necessary, deliver an electrical shock (defibrillation) to help the heart re-establish an effective rhythm. For each minute defibrillation is delayed, the odds of survival are reduced by approximately 10%.

Ghaleb Halimi, director of university sports, realized a decade ago the importance of having AEDs on hand in the sports center and purchased four of these devices in 2008, plus a portable AED.  AUB was a pioneer in this regard and prompted other schools and universities to do the same.

Since the AEDs were installed at CHSC, they have been used a total of four times, saving four precious lives. Halimi ensures that as many of his staff as possible receive training in basic first aid, CPR, and the correct use of the AEDs. There is always a staff member on duty who is trained to respond in the event of an emergency. In addition, when AUB teams travel to an away game, they always send their portable AED and a trained staff member along, just in case.​

An ounce of prevention

Cardiac arrest, which is not the same as a heart attack, kills thousands of young people every year. In the US during 2017, 7,000 youth aged 6-18 suffered a cardiac arrest. Realizing that it is better to prevent such emergencies than respond to one, Halimi set up a system for AUB sports teams whereby each athlete who makes a team undergoes medical screening which is conducted by CHAMPS Fund, a charitable fund at AUBMC that aims at preventing sudden death in youth. The screening includes​ a physical exam with personal history, heart screening (ECG/EKG), and a muscular-skeletal exam. He says that since they started this prevention program four years ago, 15 young athletes have been referred to doctors for further examination, possibly saving them from a future medical emergency.

Halimi notes that the AED machines need continual maintenance in terms of checking the condition of the electrodes and changing batteries. Physiotherapist Tarek Gherbal is in charge of keeping the AEDs in good working order and has himself saved lives at AUB using an AED during prior emergencies.

Never content with simply maintaining the status quo, Halimi said that he looks forward to working with the Protection Office staff, medical teams, and his staff to hone the evacuation procedures for emergency cases like this most recent one. When time is off the essence, it is best if everyone understands what needs to be done, who will do it, and how it will be accomplished. He is also looking into the possibility of bringing in a new model of AED to replace the ones they have now. These are expensive, he notes, but the cost pales in comparison to the worth of a human life.

AEDs across campus

In addition to the AEDs at CHSC and in the ambulance, AUB's Environmental Health, Safety, and Risk Management (EHSRM) office has installed and maintain 15 AEDs in locations across campus, 14 of which were donated by CHAMPS Fund. EHSRM also facilitates training in CPR and the use of AEDs through the Lebanese Red Cross.  

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