It was Sept. 6, 2018 — only the third day of school — and it was an episode nobody could have predicted, but staff at Calgary’s Balmoral School were prepared.
Just one month before the start of the school year, they all went through first-aid training, learned CPR and how to use the school’s on-site defibrillator.
Social studies teacher Jill Wright said nobody panicked when it counted most.
“I did what I had to do. Everyone did. The stars aligned in that moment.”
Eleven-year-old Maryam Basharat had collapsed on the school field.
Maryam was in cardiac arrest.
The physical education teacher, Thomas Guenther, raced back to the school and grabbed the defibrillator.
“When I got there, I had never seen anything like that before and I had 1,000 things going on in my head and I knew she needed help right away — it was serious,” Guenther said.
The principal, Liana Appelt, raced outside to help.
“I remember seeing her name on her T-shirt and I said, ‘Oh my word, it’s Maryam,'” Appelt said. “You feel the weight and are left wondering, ‘Did you prepare staff enough? What if she doesn’t make it?’
“She didn’t have a pulse. It was surreal and I was thinking, ‘Please, please, please, let her breath.”
“When we shocked her, you could see her little body jolt and you could see the life come back into her and it was incredible,” Guenther said.
Maryam’s parents, Momina Basharat and Basharat Ali, are grateful staff were trained and knew exactly how to react.
“They are heroes. They are amazing and they saved our daughter’s life,” Ali said. “That’s a miracle.”
The family moved to Calgary from Pakistan five years ago.
“We are blessed we are here,” Ali said. “There are no words. Maybe we are here because of what happened.”
The school team has been honoured with an EMS award and reunited with the paramedic, Paul Emmerson, who arrived to the scene to continue Maryam’s care.
“If they didn’t know how to do CPR and panicked, the poor little girl would not have had the outcome she did,” Emmerson said.
“We don’t normally see this side… seeing her smiling and giving me a hug gave me a big choke… [I] had to swallow a few times so I didn’t get tears,” Emerson added.
Maryam made a full recovery in hospital and returned back to class weeks later.
“I am happy I am still alive and I am very thankful for that actually because I was told four out of 5,000 people survive this each year and I am thankful I was one of those four people,” she said.