CANONSBURG – Temporarily setting aside finance reports and construction projects, Canonsburg Mayor David Rhome opened Monday’s council meeting with some stirring words.
“I believe that we all take life for granted, and so often it passes us by so fast,” Rhome said. “Please don’t take life for granted. This young man right here is a living testament of that.”
That young man was 15-year-old Johnathan Ayres of Houston, who collapsed during a Tae Kwon Do class at Kang’s Black Belt Academy in Canonsburg May 18. Ayres’ breathing and pulse came to a halt, but a parent, a Canonsburg police officer and the academy owner performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation on Ayres until paramedics arrived and connected him to a defibrillator. He was then flown to Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, where he has since recovered.
For their heroic efforts, Officer Jonathon Cornell, academy owner Jeff Jox and Lisa Takash, of Canonsburg, were each awarded a mayor’s certificate of commendation at the meeting.
“I’m just happy to see he’s doing well,” Cornell said. Cornell also received an honorary black belt certificate on behalf of Kang’s Academy.
“(Johnathan is) here today because of a group effort, and we were happy to have you there with us,” Jox said to Cornell.
Ayres, who had not seen Takash or Cornell since the incident, bashfully joined them at the front of the council chamber and thanked them “for helping me get through this.”
Ayres, a student at Chartiers-Houston High School, was diagnosed with a heart defect called a right bundle branch block. Doctors kept him in a paralytic state for several days to reduce the risk of brain damage and swelling. He then underwent heart surgery, and a device was implanted to prevent future cardiac arrests.
Jox said Ayres will return to classes as soon as he receives the go-ahead from doctors.
“He’s a competitive martial artist. He’s competed at state and local tournaments and done really well,” Jox said. “Those are the things that he enjoys doing.”
An event called “Kick-A-Thon 4 John-A-Than” will be held at Kang’s Academy July 27 to raise money for Ayres and his parents. There will be raffle prizes, and certificates will be awarded to students who participate and kick pads nonstop for nearly four minutes.
“It’s a vehicle to get everyone in the mood and pumped up,” Jox said.
After that event, Jox hopes to host a free, public CPR and first-aid training session at the academy.