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Hidden Valley Heroes: Coaches, Staff Save Student's Life

Xavier Callaway

ROANOKE COUNTY, Va. - It was a typical day at Hidden Valley High School when something happened in the gym, that would change one young man's life forever.

"We were in P.E. class. He was jogging in the middle of the gym and he collapsed, and I knew that there was a serious issue at that point," said Titans volleyball coach Carla Ponn.

Xavier Callaway, a 16-year-old sophomore, had sudden cardiac arrest in gym class. Ponn, his P.E. teacher, sprang into action. She alerted the boys lacrosse coach, William Engel, who was at the right place at the right time.

"As I walked by the door over here, I could see that there was a student down and that there was assistance needed. So when I saw that, I immediately came into the gym and started to help," said Engel.

Between the two coaches, school nurse Rike Shores and Principal Lori Wimbush, the Hidden Valley High staff was able to resuscitate Xavier.

"They ended up performing CPR, using the AED (automated external defibrillator) on him from the school, within a minute and a half of him collapsing," said Xavier's mother Tabitha Hartman.

Within minutes of calling 911, the first responders showed up to Hidden Valley, went in through the side door and took Xavier to Roanoke Memorial Hospital. he was later transferred to the University of Virginia Health System.

"My first reaction was: Maybe he just passed out in gym class. I didn't think it was this serious," said Hartman.

Xavier was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a rare heart condition that required surgery to put in a defibrillator. Xavier spent two weeks in the hospital. Now, he is home recovering. His family calls the Hidden Valley staff heroes. The staff said they were just doing their job.

"It goes back to the training, goes back to the training and being able to utilize what you've learned, and that's what it comes down to," Engel said.

"I'm just very lucky to be part of this family and all of us to work together as a team. And we did something good that day, and I'm just happy for Hidden Valley and I'm happy for Xavier and his family," said Ponn.

The Titan community has rallied around Xavier, sending cards and well wishes. His mother is still praising the ones at Hidden Valley, who with training and good instincts, kept Xavier alive.

"For those staff to jump in like they did to save my son's life, there's no words to describe. I've talked to them and all I can do is hug and say, 'Thank you, I don't know what I can do for you.'

They are heroes. All of them are heroes to me. They're angels," said Hartman.

Angels, with whistles instead of wings, and hearts instead of halos, and now known as Hidden Valley heroes.

Story Credit: https://www.wsls.com/sports/hidden-valley-heroes-coaches-and-staff-save-students-life