On Tuesday night, Ty Solomon greeted cardiac arrest survivors and first responders at Reynolds Coliseum with handshakes and hugs. He posed for pictures.
Smiling and relaxed, Solomon was there because he too is a survivor.
On Dec. 2, 2017, Solomon collapsed while sitting on the bench during a basketball game against N.C. State at PNC Arena.
The S.C. State redshirt senior guard had stopped breathing, his heart had stopped beating.
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Over the next 15 minutes, there was a frantic effort to save his life as a crowd of 13,000 people fell silent, except for audible cries and prayers.
S.C. State graduate student athletic trainer Tyler Long started CPR. Dr. William Jacobs, N.C. State’s team physician, made his way behind the scorer’s table to the S.C. State bench. N.C. State athletic trainer Austin Frank headed toward the S.C. State bench with an automated external defibrillator that is kept behind the N.C. State bench during games.
Wake County EMS workers Greg Rodevick and Rich Eldridge used the AED to shock Solomon's heart back into rhythm. Within a few seconds, Solomon began breathing again and a pulse was detected.
Rodevick used his two-way radio to call for an ambulance with a crew best equipped to deal with a life-or-death cardiac situation. That crew arrived within minutes and Solomon, awake and moving his head, was put on a stretcher and wheeled out of the arena to the ambulance.
Two days later, Solomon, speaking from a hospital bed at UNC Rex Healthcare’s N.C. Heart and Vascular Hospital, said of the people who saved his life: "I love those guys. I was glad it happened where it happened at because I could have been with one of my teammates in a car and it could have been a whole different situation.”
Solomon was one of 120 people who survived cardiac arrest in Wake County in 2017.
In a year when EMS workers saved more people stricken by cardiac arrest in Wake County than any previous year, Dec. 2 was their most successful day. Three lives were saved, including Solomon's.
“Perfect timing,” a smiling Solomon said Tuesday at Reynold's Coliseum at Code: Celebrate, an annual event that aims to celebrate the work of first responders and raise awareness for CPR training.
Solomon's S.C. State coach, Murray Garvin, who was 47 feet away from Solomon when he collapsed in December, spoke with conviction at the event.
“You are superheroes in the flesh,” Garvin said.
Solomon, who traveled to Tuesday's event with his mother and two sisters, can no longer play basketball but remains an S.C. State student. He’s on schedule to graduate with an engineering degree in May 2019.
Long, the trainer who performed CPR on Solomon, was awarded the "Lifesavers Recognition" plaque from the N.C. Athletic Trainers Association. It’s the first time the organization has given the award to a trainer from outside N.C.
“He came into our state and was the best we have to offer,” Nina Walker, an athletic trainer for men's lacrosse at UNC, said upon presenting the plaque to Long.
Long just finished graduate school at the University of South Carolina and is looking for a job. His time working with S.C. State’s basketball team last season, though, left an impact he doesn’t expect to ever forget.
“I think it’s a great thing to celebrate everybody,” Long said. “I don’t want it to be about me. I’m really just super happy that it turned out so great and everybody could be here to celebrate what Wake County EMS has done this past year.”
Frank, the N.C State athletic trainer who instinctively grabbed the AED and carried it to the S.C. State bench, received an identical award to Long's.
“Everything happened as perfectly as it possibly could,” Walker said about the events last December.
The cardiac arrest survivors in Wake County last year ranged in age from two months to 97 years, and some of them were at Reynolds Coliseum Tuesday to share their stories.
Back on Dec. 2, Garvin left his team at PNC Arena as he accompanied Solomon to the hospital. After Solomon left the arena, the S.C. State players voted to finish the game.
But what happened during the game really doesn't matter. The actions that saved Solomon's life that day are the things that count.
“That day," Garvin said, "we all witnessed a miracle."