Girl who suffered heart attack at Catholic school released from hospital

Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley says goodbye to 6 year old Olivia Quigley after visiting her at Brighton’s Franciscan Hospital for Children March 27. Pilot photo/ Gregory L. Tracy

BRIGHTON -- Several days after suffering a heart attack in her East Boston Catholic school in mid-February, doctors told the parents of 6 year old Olivia Quigley that she “might live” -- and that was the good news.

You might never guess that was the same vivacious little girl who met with Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley and smiled for news cameras during a March 27 reception at Brighton’s Franciscan Hospital for Children celebrating the fact that Olivia was finally ready to go home after six weeks of hospitalization.

Olivia collapsed suddenly Feb. 13 while playing in the gym of East Boston Central Catholic School (EBCC), where she is in 1st grade.

Trained in CPR, teachers Robert Casaletto and Kathleen Carabine moved quickly, resuscitating her until EMTs arrived to bring her to the hospital.

Olivia spent two-and-a half weeks at Massachusetts General Hospital before being transferred to the Franciscan Hospital for Children for an additional three-and-a half weeks of monitoring and rehabilitation therapy sessions.

Doctors are still unsure what caused Olivia’s heart to stop beating, but have taken measures to prevent future problems.

“She has a pacemaker inserted, so in the likelihood that this ever happens again, the pacemaker will pick up and beat for her,” said Dr. Varuna Tuli, a pediatric specialist at the Franciscan Hospital.

Olivia’s primary physician Marjorie Jimenez called her “very mature” and said that she has made “amazing progress.”

Among those in attendance at the reception were EBCC principal Maryann Manfredonia, Castaletto, Carabine and Mary Grassa O’Neill, secretary for education of the archdiocese’s Catholic Schools Office.

Manfredonia said CPR training has always been mandatory at EBCC and that the school held a refresher course on March 21 adding, “She is our success story -- Olivia.”

“I’m very proud of my whole staff, because everybody kicked into action,” she said.

“I can’t tell you how much prayer worked in this whole situation,” said Manfredonia. “Our prayers were answered and that’s a blessing,” she said.

Kathy and Joe Quigley, Olivia’s parents, expressed their praise and gratitude to everyone at EBCC.

“From the emergency room to the floor, we were in awe at East Boston Catholic, at what a wonderful job they have done. The teachers are true heroes,” said Kathy Quigley.

Cardinal O’Malley called Olivia’s story a “miracle” and stressed its importance as a lesson to the Greater Boston community showing that, he said, “A terrible tragedy can be avoided by a little bit of knowledge, a little bit of skill and the initiative to be able to step into the breach at a moment of crisis.”

“The right people were there at the right time, they knew what to do,” he said. “I hope that it’s galvanizing teachers and others throughout the city to prepare themselves.”

Olivia said she was looking forward to playing on her computer and hopes to become a doctor one day “to help people” because of “all of the people saved me and got me better,” she said.

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