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HORNET HERO: East Texas high school athletic trainer brings fan back to life

ATHENS, Texas (KETK) - To say Joe Boyd loves his Athens Hornets is an understatement. 

"He's a big fan and supporter of our athletics, especially football and baseball," explained Athens ISD Head Athletic Trainer Jose Mendez,

In fact, you can find Boyd at nearly every home game. His grandson is a former star athlete for the school district. 

"He graduated two years ago, but we've still got to support them because later on in life," says Boyd. "They're going to end up supporting us."

That support from the younger generation came sooner than Boyd anticipated. 

It started out like any other Tuesday night baseball game.

Mendez says Boyd actually came to the dugout that day before the game.

"He's a very happy person," Mendez tells KETK. "He came in jokingly and said, 'Hey coach put me in! I'm ready!'"

However, as the game progressed, all attention shifted to the bleachers.

"I stood up, grabbed my heart, and fell," Boyd recounts.

He was having a heart attack. A coach's wife, who was sitting with Boyd, immediately rushed to the dugout. She knew Mendez would have an automated external defibrillator, or AED.

It took less than a minute, from the moment Boyd collapsed, to the moment Mendez made it to the bleachers with the AED.

By the time Mendez got there, he says Boyd was unconscious.

"He wasn't breathing," recalls Mendez. "He didn't have a pulse."

"They said I was deceased," says Boyd. "That the heart had completely stopped."

It was a first-time experience for both men. 

With Boyd collapsed in the bleachers, Mendez says he knew what he did next could mean the difference between life and death.

Mentally, he was prepared.

"There was a switch that went on and it was basically 'go time'," Mendez explains.

He knew it was time to put all of his training into action.

Mendez says he knew he wanted to be an athletic trainer ever since his sophomore year in college. He's also passionate about baseball. 

"They said, 'You can be on the sidelines, you can be on the field and still learn about the medical field,'" says Mendez. "So, it was an easy choice."

This is Mendez's fourth year at Athens ISD.

As the head athletic trainer, Mendez is also the CPR, AED and first aid instructor for every campus in the district. 

Now, was the moment he could save a life, with 30 chest compressions and one delivered shock from the AED.

"The next thing I know, I wake up laying between the bleachers, with them trying to give me CPR," Boyd exclaims.

In the moment, he says he was confused about what had just happened. With so many people surrounding him, he said he needed his space. 

"I told everyone to get off me," Boyd joked.

"It was a great moment when we noticed he was back," Mendez explained with a smile.

Amid the chaos in the bleachers, Mendez noticed a different scene unfolding on the field. 

"Both of our teams were combined, praying for Mr. Boyd," says Mendez. "It was a good moment," says Mendez.

Things moved quickly after that. 

"They hauled me to ETMC Athens, and then flew me to Tyler," says Boyd.

While in Tyler, he underwent surgery to receive a pacemaker with a defibrillator.

A week later, Boyd was back at it, cheering on his Athens Hornets. 

"I've always healed quick," says Boyd. "My wife has been on me heavy. She makes sure I take my medicine. Makes sure I eat right."

Looking back, Boyd says his situation could have been a whole lot worse. 

"If I had been at home, I'm not sure I would have made it," says Boyd.

He explained he was in the right place, at the right time, with the right people. 

"I just thank God for all of that," Boyd says.

He said he's also thankful for Mendez, who's now a local hero. 

"I was just doing my job," Mendez says. "I strive on the professionalism aspect of it. I try to do everything I can. To the best that I can. To the best ability that I can. And I do thank God for allowing me to do everything that I do."

For now, there are more baseball games in the future for both of these men. 

"As long as they'll let me in the stadium!" joked Boyd, as he sat in the bleachers.

But now, Boyd has a vigilant friend, watching from the dugout.

"I tend to look at the bleachers and keep an eye on him," says Mendez. "I know he's doing great and having a great recovery, but part of me likes to keep an eye on him."

It's a friendship bonded by their love for baseball and the MVP known as the AED that saved the day. 

Mendez says if there's one thing to take away from this story, he hopes this proves just how important AEDs can be at school functions, and not just sporting events. 

On average, AEDs cost around $1,400 each. 

Mendez says, currently, Athens ISD has 17, with plans to buy more.

While these machines can provide peace of mind for faculty and parents, with Mr. Boyd serving as living proof, the AED can save anyone's life.

To learn more about AEDs and to learn how to become AED-certified, click here.


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