Heart to Heart
By Eugenia Moskowitz
k in June of 2011, Washingtonville Police Department Officer Keith Lipsey and current Washingtonville High School SRO Charlie Martin responded to a medical call for a 13 year old girl in cardiac arrest. She had been at an eighth grade dance at Washingtonville Middle School and, upon getting home, collapsed. Brianna’s mother dialed 911 and administered CPR until the officers arrived.
When the officers arrived, Brianna Barker was still unresponsive and had no pulse. The officers continued CPR until paramedics arrived. Administering proper CPR provided Brianna’s brain with oxygen, preventing brain damage. Approximately 20 minutes later, paramedics heard a pulse and Brianna was transported to Cornwall Hospital. She had suffered heart muscle deterioration since she was very young, and its progress had become evident. Without a new heart, she would suffer more future heart failures and would die.
One year after that call, Brianna received a heart transplant from a 16-year old girl, from North Carolina a doctor had mentioned in passing, and was doing well.
Elated after her daughter’s recovery from the operation, Veronica began to search for the heart donor. Scouring the internet, she came upon the name of Kaitlyn Nicole Rouse, from Kinston, NC. Many factors regarding Kaitlyn seemed to fall in line, and she sent an email to Kaitlyn’s mother Shannon Rouse Ruiz.
She immediately heard back. Shannon said Kaitlyn had died of a prescription drug overdose after being pulled out of a pool by her brother. Kaitlyn, who had wanted to be a cardiologist, donated six organs that day. Her heart came to Washingtonville.
That was then. Now, almost eight years later, Officer Martin met Brianna and Veronica as they spoke with students in a Washingtonville High School health class about the importance of organ donation, and how it gave her, and gives so many others, the gift of life.
Brianna is currently a senior at Penn State University studying premed.
Knowing proper CPR technique saves lives, Blooming Grove Ambulance paramedics said. To learn how, contact the ambulance corps via its website.
CAPTION: Washingtonville’s Brianna Barker and her mother Veronica flanked SRO Charlie Martin at Washingtonville High School last week, where Brianna spoke about the importance of organ donation. Eight years ago, Martin had helped save Brianna’s life. (Photo provided)