The Pesanys wanted to thank the Lancaster police detective who saved their son’s life after he suffered an electrical shock on the athletic field at Lancaster High School.
And for Detective Keith Kerl, the means of repaying the favor was obvious. He asked the Pesanys to have their son, JJ, learn CPR.
“Someday, if he’s ever in that position, he’ll be able to return the favor,” said Kerl, who also volunteers with the Twin District Volunteer Fire Company in Lancaster.
So on Friday, JJ Pesany joined with about two dozen of his teammates from the high school football team to learn CPR, including how to use an automated defibrillator.
“It feels good to know that I could give back,” said JJ, a sophomore.
The training came nearly six months after JJ suffered a severe electrical shock when a goal post he was moving during a football practice on the Lancaster High School field hit a power line.
He was the most severely injured of the four people involved, with the incident throwing him into cardiac arrest.
“All he could tell me was that JJ had a pulse and we should get to the hospital as quickly as possible,” Jennifer Pesany, JJ’s mother, said of the call she received to notify her of the accident. “It was the worst phone call imaginable.”
The Pesanys later learned that the first responders received orders to stay back from the scene until the power lines were shut off, as to not put themselves in danger. But Kerl knew time was of the essence, and that minutes could mean the difference between life and death for JJ. So he threw himself into the situation.
Kerl and other responders defibrillated JJ several times on the scene and on the way to the hospital, sending electrical energy through his heart to break the fatal rhythm caused by the electrocution.
His parents credit that early and aggressive intervention with saving their son’s life.
“This man saved our son’s life,” Jennifer Pesany said of Kerl. “If it were not for him getting there in two minutes, JJ would not be with us.”
JJ was released after about a week in the hospital, including several days in the intensive care unit. He still receives some ongoing medical treatment, but in September returned to Lancaster High School, where he is an honors student and kicker on the football team.
The Pesanys have kept in touch with Kerl since the accident, and insisted they do something to repay him. They were thrilled at his idea to have members of the football team learn CPR.
“This is a life skill that, hopefully, they’ll never have to use, but they’ll have available should they need it,” said JJ’s father, Joe Pesany. “This whole event showed us how fragile life is. Hug your kids, hug your wife. Things can change in an instant.”
Even then, for members of the team, the accident served as a reminder of the important role they could play in helping someone in a life or death moment.
“You never really know when something horrible is going to happen,” said Jon Ruggiero, a sophomore. “It could be one of your buddies.”