Grafton High shows its heart for fellow student in need of transplant

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Students from the Grafton High School Special Olympics Club rock red t-shirts to support freshman Andrew Stonier. (Courtesy Grafton High School Facebook)
Students from the Grafton High School Special Olympics Club rock red t-shirts to support freshman Andrew Stonier. (Courtesy Grafton High School Facebook)

At the beginning of the school day, he had a cough. Before it was over, he was in cardiac arrest.

Andrew Stonier, a freshman at Grafton High School, had a heart attack on Nov. 28, according to a release from the school. Some quick thinking and CPR by a PE teacher, Amy Hunter, helped save his life.

Grafton High School students Lainey Griffin and Fred Choi sign a banner Wednesday for freshman Andrew Stonier, who is recovering from a heart transplant. (Photo courtesy Holly Conradi)
Grafton High School students Lainey Griffin and Fred Choi sign a banner Wednesday for freshman Andrew Stonier, who is recovering from a heart transplant. (Photo courtesy Holly Conradi)

Hunter said that the heart attack struck between classes. She was preparing her lesson as students filtered into the room when she felt something bump into her teaching station.

“I looked around it and I realized he was on the ground,” Hunter said.  “‘Andrew, honey are you okay?’  I thought he had fallen out of his chair. It wasn’t until I walked around that I realized he wasn’t moving. I grabbed the straps of his backpack to pull him up and he was completely purple.”

Hunter said Stonier was growing more purple by the second. She took off his backpack and laid him flat on the floor and immediately began performing CPR.

“I don’t remember much of the events that took place,” said Hunter. “Another PE teacher came in and I told them to get the AED machine.”

Hunter said that CPR training is now mandatory in high school education in Virginia. She had just taught her previous class a CPR lesson, and was preparing to do the same for Stonier’s class when he collapsed. Her call for an AED machine “just popped into my head,” as a result of teaching CPR just moments earlier.

Grafton freshman
Andrew Stonier, a Grafton freshman, is recovering from heart-transplant surgery. (Photo courtesy Holly Condradi)

“The paramedics said all the stars had to align for this, and they truly did align. It’s almost surreal,” said Hunter. “We had him on the floor and next to him were the CPR dolls we use in class. When the paramedics got there and I stepped back, when I looked around the room it almost didn’t seem real.”

Hunter said the paramedics arrived within three minutes of the 911 call, but to her it felt like half an hour.

“It was just one of those things where I was at the right place at the right time,” said Hunter. “I was glad to be there. I have four kids of my own and — God forbid anything happens to them — I hope there’s someone there at the right place and the right time. I’m a mom and I know he’s somebody’s son and brother and I wanted to help him.”

From Grafton, Stonier went to Mary Immaculate Hospital in Newport News and later to Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters. He has undergone several surgeries, including a heart transplant at the University of Virginia Pediatric Cardiac Care Unit in Charlottesville. Doctors had to amputate one of his legs below the knee. He will be taking medications for the rest of his life and his medical expenses are significant.  

Grafton bracelet fundraiser
Grafton art students sold out of the bracelets they made as a fundraiser to help defray Stonier’s medical expenses. (Photo courtesy Holly Conradi)

That’s where the Grafton community has stepped in, including members of the Student Council Association and 27 students in the leadership class.

Over the weekend, students unveiled a GoFundMe page, hoping they might raise $5,000 to help defray Andrew’s medical bills. Within the first 48 hours, they had met their goal, according to Julia Larsen, a senior. By Wednesday afternoon, it had collected more than $8,300 in donations. 

This week, students have also organized a series of daily fundraisers billed as “GHS Heart Week.” The events ranged from Chipotle Night on Monday, when 50-percent of the proceeds went to Andrew’s family, to Candygram deliveries on Valentine’s Day. On Wednesday, art students raised $329 by selling bracelets, according to Jennifer Zwirschitz, a teacher and cosponsor of SCA.

Amanda Stonier, Andrew’s mother, responded by email Wednesday evening to a request for comment.

“Andrew’s medical journey has been a whirlwind and is full of many ups and downs,” she wrote. “No matter what you believe in weather it be in God, Karma, the power of positive thinking, or coincidences. Something has been guiding him along the way. Each step has perfectly aligned with the next and with all the bad has come a lot good. It all began at Grafton High School, without the quick response and the willingness of the faculty and staff to work together Andrew’s outcome may have been very different.”

She and her husband are grateful for the support they have received from their family, friends and the Grafton community, she added, as well as former teachers and administrators at Grafton Middle School and Dare Elementary School. “We are incredibly proud of the students at Grafton High School that have made it their mission to show their support for Andrew,” she wrote. 

That’s a sentiment shared by Hunter as well.

“Just to see the whole community come together for this kid is pretty awesome,” she said. “He’s just a sweet kid. He’s quiet and sweet. He was a freshmen, so I only had him for a couple months, but he couldn’t have been sweeter, and a hard worker.”