Metro-East News

Belleville West football coach credited with saving a life in Minnesota

Belleville West head coach Cameron Pettus.
Belleville West head coach Cameron Pettus. Zia Nizami

Belleville West Football Coach Cameron Pettus was just hoping to have a good time over the weekend, watching a pair of his former players take the field for North Dakota State.

But Pettus’ decision to make the trip had a lot more significance for a fellow traveler whose life he was called upon to help save.

“It’s something that I’ll never forget,” Pettus said. “I’m just glad that I was able to make a difference when someone was counting on it.”

Pettus said he was transferring from one flight to another in the Minneapolis airport when he heard a woman scream for help.

The woman’s husband, who suffers from epilepsy, had a seizure and fell on the motorized walkway between terminals, striking his head.

Pettus hopped over the divider between his walkway and the one headed in the opposite direction. With the help of another woman he didn’t know, the makeshift team tried to roll over the victim on his side so he wouldn’t choke.

The effort didn’t work, however. Pettus said the man’s tongue started to swell up and blocked his airway.

“Suddenly, he went into cardiac arrest,” Pettus said.

As a teacher and a coach, you go through that training and you never know if you’ll need to use it. I’m just glad I was able to perform when I was called upon.

Belleville West Football Coach Cameron Pettus

He and the woman he’d never met before were suddenly forced to team up to give the victim CPR with Pettus pumping the man’s chest and the woman breathing into his mouth.

“He came to and started breathing again, but his breathing was really weird,” Pettus said.

A few minutes later, a police officer arrived with a portable defibrillator which he attached to the victim’s chest as his breathing continued to be labored.

“The machine suddenly said that he had no pulse again and told us to stand back,” Pettus said. “It shocked him, and his heart started again.”

Pettus said paramedics arrived and he and the nurse were able to make it to their plane bound for North Dakota before it left the gate.

“We talked about how we wished we knew how it turned out,” Pettus said of the woman that he found out was a nurse. “But I didn’t know if we’d ever hear anything else about it.”

He continued his journey and got a call the next morning from police in Minnesota.

“They told me ‘we just want you to know that you helped save a life,’” Pettus said. “As a teacher and a coach, you go through that training and you never know if you’ll need to use it. I’m just glad I was able to perform when I was called upon.”

Authorities said the victim was awake and coherent by the time he was taken to the hospital and appeared to have stabilized.

Pettus said he often travels to see his former players take the field with their new school.

“It’s something that’s a lot of fun for me and for my family,” Pettus said. “But this time it was even more special. It was a very powerful experience.”

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