Seth Nottley poses while wearing a superman t-shirt.

Heart

When emergency struck, this school was ready

After CPR helped save Seth, classmates rallied to Jump Rope for Heart in his honour

Chapter 1 “Seth’s down!”

On March 25, 2021, Courtney Mellow was in her office at Sacred Heart School in Port Lambton, a community of about 1,000 people in southwestern Ontario. It was morning recess at the K-8 school, where Courtney had become principal just six months earlier. Suddenly, a teacher on yard duty buzzed her walkie-talkie. At the same time, three students burst through the door yelling, “Seth’s down!”

Courtney ran to the playground, where 10-year-old Seth Nottley lay on his back. Seeing he wasn’t breathing, she checked his airways, which were clear, then started CPR. As she pushed on Seth’s chest, she yelled for someone to get the school’s defibrillator. 

“It’s our job to keep our kids safe,” Courtney says. “But I truly believe that something bigger was helping me that morning.” 

Chapter 2 Life-saving preparation

Everyone who works at the close-knit school of 130 students knew that Seth was born with a heart condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. The teachers knew to watch him for symptoms: fatigue, shortness of breath, a splotchy or pale face, blue lips or tongue. If the day was too hot or too cold, Seth would stay in during breaks so his heart wouldn’t have to work overtime while playing outdoors.

Seth and his family at the hospital next to his bed.

Seth’s family was relieved after he had successful surgery to place an ICD in his chest.

Seth in a wheelchair with his siblings beside him.

Five months after his cardiac arrest, Seth was finally back home -- here with his brother, William, and sister, Rylan. 

Seth’s schoolmates pose for a photo and participate in Jump Rope for Heart.

Some of Seth’s schoolmates getting active for Jump Rope for Heart.

Sacred Heart was also a regular participant in Heart & Stroke Jump Rope for Heart, helping students learn about heart health while raising funds for life-saving research.

When Seth was in senior kindergarten, his mother, Tricia, persuaded the school to buy an automated external defibrillator (AED) and train the staff to use it, along with ensuring that they kept up with their CPR certification. On that fateful day in March, this training helped save Seth’s life. 

Courtney continued CPR on Seth, then used the school’s AED, applying the pads to his chest to try to restart his heart.

Meanwhile one teacher called 9-1-1, while another shepherded concerned students to their classrooms. Another teacher took Seth’s brother, William, 7, and sister, Rylan, 5, to the office, along with three of his cousins. 

It was about 10 minutes before first responders arrived, along with Seth’s aunt, Laurie Kraayenbrink, who was at home nearby. His parents were working 30 minutes away in Chatham. 

A volunteer firefighter took over CPR, but Seth still wasn’t breathing. Finally an ambulance took him to Wallaceburg Hospital, where Tricia and her husband, Jeremy, rushed to meet their son. The paramedics got Seth’s pulse back en route, then lost it again.

After Seth was finally stabilized, he spent about 10 weeks at Children’s Hospital in London, most of that time on life support. He was transferred to SickKids Hospital, then Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital in Toronto. While Seth’s parents stayed in Toronto, Laurie and her husband, who have seven children, took in William and Rylan. 

 

Chapter 3 #wejumpforseth

In June, Seth had successful surgery to place an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) in his chest. The battery-powered device will keep track of his heart rate; if it detects an abnormal rhythm, it will deliver an electric shock to resume a normal heartbeat. It’s a huge comfort to his family, Laurie says.

I truly believe that something bigger was helping me that morning.
Courtney Mellow - School principal

Meanwhile, in June, his schoolmates honoured Seth in a Jump Rope for Heart event that engaged the whole community (hashtag #wejumpforseth). The students took part in heart-healthy physical activity and learned about ways to keep their own hearts strong. Plus they raised more than $10,000 for Heart & Stroke research. “We do it every year,” Courtney says. “But this year it was personal, and the most successful in terms of participation and money raised.”

By late August, five months after his cardiac arrest, Seth was finally back home in Port Lambton. He was looking forward to getting back to dirt biking and four-wheeling, playing video games with his cousins, and starting Grade 6.

Seth’s family is grateful to all those who helped. “All of Seth’s angels who helped save his life hold a special place in our hearts,” says Laurie.