Joel Ervin is a popular 8th grade student and athlete at East Hamilton Middle High School.  Last month, Joel collapsed in the gym, and stopped breathing.  Thanks to some alert teachers and the school nurse, Joel is alive and back in school with his friends.

He shared center stage at a school-wide assembly on Wednesday with three teachers and a school nurse who are credited with saving his life. During PE class on August 15, Joel suddenly passed out, going into a seizure.   Students sought help, and coaches Bailey Reeves, Holly Smith and Ryan Cooper were first on the scene.

Working as a team, the three teachers took turns using the school's automated external defibrillator, and practicing CPR techniques.  They were soon joined by school nurse Lynn Henry.  Coach Smith, who is one of the school district's CPR instructors said she had just worked with East Hamilton's teachers two weeks ago, but none knew they would need the skills so soon.

 Joel was rushed to T.C. Thompson Children's Hospital, and was later transferred to Vanderbilt Medical Center in Nashville.  He recently returned to school, and the assembly gave his family an opportunity to thank the school's life-saving heroes publicly. Joel's grandmother Cindy Hitchcock tearfully told the crowd, "He's my first grandson.  If not for you guys, he would not have made it.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart."

Joel said he loved his teachers.  "I don't know how to repay them," he said.  "I'm so glad they have those skills, and I know many students here want to learn them too."

Students also heard from Hamilton County Emergency Services Lt. Tony Sylvester and Public Information Officer Amy Maxwell, who stressed the importance of seeking help when a friend or loved one is unresponsive or unable to breathe.

Several local businesses, including the Bi-Lo store on Ooltewah-Ringgold Road, Chick Fil-A, Massage Envy at Hamilton Place, and Publix on East Brainerd Road donated and awarded gift cards to the teachers, the nurse, and Tony's family.  East Hamilton principal Gail Chuy expressed thanks to teachers, students and the local businesses for raising awareness of the importance of learning life saving skills.