Olivet alumnus Jeff Zehr pushed the button and saved a life

As his high school basketball team shot free throws last week, Coach Jeff Zehr ’91 saw one of his players suffer a cardiac arrest.

This 12/20/2018 story by Alexander Sinn of the Grand Haven Tribune is reprinted from GrandHavenTribune.com. Used with permission.

As the Fruitport Calvary Christian basketball team shot free throws last week, Jeff Zehr (far right in photo) saw one of his players fall on the court. 

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Called over by players, the coach took a moment to determine that senior Luke Anhalt had suffered a cardiac arrest. Zehr’s son, Zach, retrieved the nearby automated external defibrillator (AED) that saved Anhalt’s life.

Anhalt returned home Tuesday after days spent at Devos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where the 17-year-old received an implanted defibrillator. The device will shock his heart back to life if it ever enters a fatal rhythm again.

Without the implant, such an incident requires quick action with an AED.

Zehr is a chiropractic physician and former athletic trainer, but he said he had never witnessed a cardiac arrest prior to last week. He said the device led him through the procedure, while a 911 call had beckoned help.

As Anhalt wore a practice jersey, leads were easily attached to his chest, and the device analyzed his condition. Anhalt’s heart had entered a fatal rhythm, and needed the electrical pulse to correct it.

“I was almost really surprised, but it suddenly told me he needed to be shocked,” Zehr said. “I pushed the button.”

Zehr then began chest compressions, as instructed by the AED, and an ambulance arrived moments later. Anhalt needed another shock from the device to return his heart rhythm to normal.

Zehr said the life-saving steps were a matter of hooking up the device and following directions.

“Even though I have some training, it’s really important to know that everybody ought to have those available,” he said. “Anybody can work those things. They’re designed to be fail-safe and very easy to use. They will save lives.”

Many area schools have AEDs, but they are not required by state law. Michigan added CPR and AED training as a graduation requirement in 2017, but the devices aren’t in every building.

At Tuesday night’s varsity basketball game against Muskegon Catholic, Anhalt surprised his teammates by striding into the gym and sitting on the bench with his friends toward the end of play. Hugs and handshakes followed.

Anhalt hopes to rejoin the team on the court toward the end of the season.

Zehr said it was a big surprise to see his power forward back in the gym, and it caused a big smile to spread across the bench.

“If something this horrible had to happen, things could not have gone more perfectly,” Zehr said.


Jeff Zehr ‘91 is an alumnus of Olivet Nazarene University, along with his wife, Gladys (Townsend) ’92, and his daughter, Brianna ’18. Daughter Britney is a sophomore at Olivet.


Submitted photo. Used with permission.


Published: 12/20/2018