AHS athletic trainer saves a life at baseball game


ATHENS — Tuesday evening was a good night for baseball. It was the top of the fifth, and Athens High School’s varsity team was on the field defending against Madisonville when something happened that makes this a very different kind of sports story.

About three rows from the top of the stands, Joe Boyd was cheering on the Hornets as he does at almost every home game.

“We always mess with each other at games, and he was sitting right next to me,” said Leigh Hines, whose husband, Cody Hines, is a coach for the district. “We were chit-chatting, and literally out of nowhere, Joe just fell backwards.”

Hines had never seen a heart attack take place before, but she immediately believed that’s what was happening. “I took off like a madwoman to find Mendez,” she said. “I knew he should have an AED.”

An AED is an automated external defibrillator, which can be used to administer a shock to a person in a cardiac emergency. Athens ISD has an AED at every sporting event it hosts, and Hines knew the district’s head athletic trainer, Jose Mendez, would likely have one with him in the dugout. He did.

“I heard Leigh say, ‘I think he’s having a heart attack.’ So I grabbed the AED and rushed up the bleachers,” recalled Mendez. “Joe was unconscious, not breathing and didn’t have a pulse. I knew what I had to do. … I felt calm. Something came over me, and it was just natural instinct.”

From the time Mendez opened the lid of the AED to the shock being administered, 35 seconds passed, which the machine recorded. Following the shock, Mendez administered CPR, and Boyd was revived.

“There was total silence the whole time Mendez was working on him,” said Head Baseball Coach Dallas Robertson. “You could hear the AED, and everyone was watching and praying. It was an incredible moment when we heard Joe gasp for air.”

Mendez and a parent from Madisonville who is a nurse tended to Boyd as they waited for him to be transported to an ambulance. During that time, the players from Athens and Madisonville walked toward one another onto the field where, between second and third bases, they prayed.

“It’s incredibly special when the response of two high school teams is to come together and pray,” said Hines.

Ben Boyd, Joe’s son, said on Friday that his father is expected to recover following a procedure and should be home soon.

“I’d like to thank Coach Mendez on behalf of our whole family for his professionalism and immediate response,” said the younger Boyd. “All the medics and doctors said that his actions with the AED saved Dad’s life. … He’ll be able to keep watching his grandkids grow up and keep supporting the Hornets.”

Not only is the elder Boyd a baseball fan, he’s also at most home football games and mentors two first-grade boys at Central Athens Elementary as part of their Lunch Buddy program.

“I’m just thankful we were able to have a positive outcome,” said Mendez, who, like all AISD coaches, is certified in CPR, AED and first aid.

Though he was laser-focused throughout the event, Mendez said when the EMT’s arrived, he was able to take in what was happening around them. “All the fans, athletes and coaches were united and praying for him. … That was a good moment.”