Catawba College Graduate Credited with Helping Save Athlete’s Life
January 26, 2021
Catawba College graduate Morgan Brann Krout is credited with helping to save the life of a high school runner who collapsed at a cross country meet in Southern Pines, NC.
Morgan, Catawba Class of 2016, is assistant athletic trainer at Pinecrest High School in Southern Pines. During her time at Catawba, she was in the Athletic Training Program and was on the softball team.
On Nov. 18, she was stationed at the end of the 5-kilometer course at the Pinehurst Course at the Elks Lodge in Southern Pines, when senior runner Juliette Suh from Jack Britt High School, Fayetteville, first slowed down and then collapsed near her.
“She was 10 yards from the finish line, and her legs went ‘nood-ley’ and she collapsed. She looked up at me and said she was going to finish the race,” Morgan said in a recent interview. Trainers and the coaching staff are not allowed to touch a runner during the race. That automatically disqualifies the runner. So, even though runners are often tired near the end of a race, they are given the chance to resume the race, if they’re able to do so safely.
“Then her whole body went limp, and she died,” says Morgan, who is still processing the events of that day. “My biggest fear has always been having to do CPR on a child, and I realized that my fear was coming true.”
She started with sternum rubs — a painful stimulus practice in which the medic rubs their knuckles over the chest to get a response, according to The Fayetteville Observer which recently published a story under the headline, “I’m Going to have to do CPR on a 17-Year-Old.”
L-R: Bob Curtin, Morgan Krout, Juliette Suh, and Frank Sanchez.
The CPR went on for 15 minutes, although Morgan said that it felt like two hours.
Frank Sanchez, Pinecrest head athletic trainer, began chest compressions. Pinecrest wrestling coach Bob Curtin, an Army veteran, started clearing her airway. ‘I blew into a breathing apparatus between Morgan’s pumping,” he told The Observer. “I started doing compressions for a minute or so. It was a chilly day, so I went and got a blanket.
She was given three jolts of AED, but she didn’t revive, said Morgan.
The three of them kept working until the ambulance arrived. “It felt like CPR went on for an eternity,” Morgan said. “We couldn’t get a pulse. The AED was not helping. The CPR was not resuscitating her. She was dead 12 to 15 minutes, without oxygen. She was getting bagged and we were getting blood and oxygen to move, but it’s not enough, she told The Observer.
Sanchez didn’t feel much hope either. “That fear starts to creep in,” he said. ‘When she left in the ambulance, it sunk in. You know you did everything you could, but you still feel hopeless in a sense. “When she left, we had no idea. We thought she might actually be gone,” he told The Observer.
“I remember looking at my principal and knowing it was not good,” said Morgan. “I broke down, thinking ‘What just happened.’ It went from zero to 100 real quick.”
The EMTs shocked her twice and finally got her into rhythm,” said Morgan. “They officially put her into a coma, and I remember thinking, ‘This child is not going to come out of the coma all right, with 15 minutes without oxygen.’”
Juliette Suh was taken to FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital in Pinehurst and then helicoptered to UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill. She was placed on a ventilator but was able to provide written responses to questions. Ten hours later, she was on her way to recovery. Doctors found no underlying causes for the cardiac arrest but credited the quick and capable work of the trainers for saving Juliette’s life. Since then, she has had surgery to insert a defibrillator near her collarbone.
Her mother, Michelle Suh, said in The Observer story, “We’re grateful Frank and Morgan were there and they knew what to do.”
Looking back at the incident, Morgan says that it is still hard for her to grasp what happened.
Looking back at her time at Catawba, Morgan says that she most appreciates that Catawba professors set a level of independence for students that is helpful in professional life. “We had teachers who would step in if needed, but they weren’t holding our hands,” she says. Originally from Duplin County, NC, she came to Catawba because she was allowed to pursue her dream of athletic training while playing on the softball team.