January 5, 2021, Santa Rosa, CA – Santa Rosa Junior College (SRJC) swim team members, coaches and the Head Athletic Trainer have been selected for recognition by The American Red Cross with Lifesaving Awards for saving Morgan DeSalvo’s life during swim practice on March 5, 2020. The virtual awards presentation will take place on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021, at 5 p.m., and is for the honorees, their friends, family, and coworkers.
DeSalvo, a 21-year-old freshman on the SRJC swim team, was born with aortic stenosis, a condition preventing the aortic valve from fully opening, which impedes blood flow from the heart. He has been able to safely engage in non-contact sports, including swimming, with cardiologists’ clearance.
Teammate Katie Morrison was the first to notice DeSalvo in distress underwater. She held onto his arm and asked nearby teammate, Megan Ference, for help. Ference raised him to the surface and held his head above water. Head swim coach, Jill McCormick, realized DeSalvo was in cardiac arrest when she saw what was happening and called to head assistant coach, Tyler Denize, who rescued Morgan from the water. Assistant coach, Nolan Stimple, was at the outside pool but knew there was trouble when he saw Denize running. Stimple had recently completed emergency medical technician training and took charge. He searched for DeSalvo’s pulse, but found none. He performed chest compressions and mouth to mouth resuscitation. Denize stabilized DeSalvo’s head and cleared his airway, enabling the release of fluid from his lungs. Meanwhile, Ference ran to Head Athletic Trainer and Sports Medicine & Athletic Training program director, Dr. Monica Ohkubo’s office to tell her they needed to use the AED (automated external defibrillator.) When Dr. Ohkubo reached DeSalvo at the pool, McCormick had the AED machine ready to go. Ohkubo applied the AED pads to DeSalvo’s chest and shocked his heart back to life.
As an athletic trainer, Dr. Ohkubo is a certified, health care professional who works with doctors and other medical staff to provide preventative, emergency, and follow-up care to a variety of athletes. She is also a Red Cross CPR instructor who is well-trained and ready to use the AED. She credits the Red Cross for her skills practice. This was her first time using an AED in an emergency.
“I am thankful I am exposed to it often,” said Dr. Ohkubo. “We know what it’s going to do, feel and sound like, and what to expect.”
The coaches and Ohkubo continued to monitor DeSalvo until the paramedics arrived. Their EKG (electrocardiogram machine) determined DeSalvo had to be hospitalized locally. He was subsequently airlifted to UCSF. When his lungs were clear, DeSalvo’s surgeons performed surgery, creating a new heart valve from his healthy tissue.
“We are so proud of our incredible coaches and staff who jumped into action to save this student’s life,” Dr. Chong said. “I’m thrilled they will be receiving this award, which is so deserved. They are true heroes.”
Thanks to these first responders, DeSalvo celebrated his twenty-second birthday in April.
The Red Cross hopes that sharing life-saving stories like these will inspire others to learn vital rescue skills.