By Kathleen Kraemer
Samantha Agins, 22, died on Aug. 11 after administering CPR to a woman in cardiac arrest.
Agins graduated from Pocono Mountain East in 2011 and went on to study biology at ESU with the hopes of becoming a physician’s assistant.
Additionally, Agins worked at the Minisink Hotel and was a certified emergency medical technician (EMT).
Agins became interested in the medical field after spending a large amount of time in hospitals as a child. Agins was legally deaf but, according to her younger sister Sara, “Sam would never use that as an excuse.”
Sara continued, “I think it just shows her character. She never let not hearing control her goals.”
“She loved what she was doing and where she was heading,” said her boyfriend David Shaw.
This summer, Agins was working as an EMT for Camp Jaycee.
Camp Jaycee, located in Effort Pa., is a residential and day program for special needs adults and children. According to their website, the camp’s mission is to provide individuals with developmental disabilities with “quality camping experiences” as well as giving them a place to work on “developing social skills, improving self-esteem, increasing confidence, learning in a fun environment, developing physical fitness, and establishing meaningful relationships with new friends.”
Though this was Agins’ first time working at Camp Jaycee, she was very familiar with the camp because she has had many family members working there for several years.
While Agins was on duty on Aug. 7, a female camper went into cardiac arrest. Agins acted as she was trained to and began CPR.
According to her mother Paula, “She hooked up the AED (automated external defibrillator), and it kept telling her to push harder. She never wanted to quit.”
Agins continued to administer CPR for approximately a half hour before the ambulance arrived. Unfortunately, the woman did not survive.
Following the arrival of the ambulance, Agins appeared to be in shock as she lay down and vomited. It was later discovered that Agins had suffered her first stroke.
Before Agins left the camp with her mother, she suffered another mini-stroke. According to Paula, this second stoke left her far less responsive, limiting her communication to “grunting and pointing.”
Agins had another major stroke around 3:30 a.m. on Aug. 8. Agins was taken to Pocono Medical Center and then transported to Thomas Jefferson Hospital in Philadelphia.
Doctors were able to determine that the physical exertion of CPR had dissected an artery causing a stroke in her brain stem.
Bruce, Agins’ father, explained, “The doctor seemed to think she probably had a small defect or weak spot in the artery, and the over-exertion from CPR was just too much.”
Agins remained in the hospital on life support and in locked-in syndrome. Patients with locked-in syndrome are essentially paralyzed, but are conscious and aware of their surroundings.
By the afternoon of Aug. 10, Agins had slipped into a full coma. Paula told the Pocono Record, “I told my husband when I saw her, she was different. She wasn’t there anymore. She was in a coma and she wasn’t coming back.”
“There were so many diagnoses going around. Everyone’s final diagnosis was that she was never going to come out of this. She may have been in the locked-in state at the onset, but by Sunday night she was in a full-endured coma. She didn’t look the same after that. We knew she was gone and we cherished her wishes. She looked so peaceful when she passed like she was thankful for us. It was the hardest thing any of us could have done,” said Paula.
Agins was removed from life-support and died the next evening.
David said, “There was so much love when it came to Sam; what she gave out and what people had for her.”
David and Agins’ family take solace in the fact that Samantha died doing what she loved. “Sam was full of life. She was so caring, always wanted to help people in any way possible,” said David.
“I just want people to know she didn’t suffer and wasn’t in any pain. She was surrounded by family and friends all the way through to the end,” he continued.
“Sam’s legacy was ‘if you can help someone do it, you have to try,’” said Sara, “its what we want to keep of her.”
Though Agins was an organ donor, the family encountered difficulty with donating her organs. Instead, they did “as much as they could” and donated bone, cartilage, veins, arteries and skin tissue. Her hair was donated to Locks for Love.
“Samantha would not have wanted it any other way,” said Sara.
Tomorrow, Sept. 11, will mark one month since Agins’ death. In that month there has been a massive outpouring of support for Agins’ family and friends.
“The support from the community has been amazing. Samantha’s story has touched so many people. It warms my heart,” said Sara.
Almost immediately following her death, the story of Agins’ heroism was picked up by local, national and international news appearing as far and wide as NBC and Britain’s Daily Mirror.
Family, friends and strangers alike took to social media using the hashtag #purpleheartsforsam to grieve, communicate and celebrate Agins’ life.
The hashtag has also been used in an attempt to gain recognition from Ellen DeGeneres. Agins’ youngest sister Kayla wrote to Ellen saying, “Samantha is a true hero and she gave her life in an attempt to save another life. My big sister always promised us many things. She promised we would move to Nashville, she promised we’d go on a long vacation to Hawaii, she promised to have a long wonderful life together, and she always promised to get me to meet you because you and I share a birthday. Unfortunately, now that Samantha has passed, she cannot fulfill these promises, so it’s my turn to take over.”
Though no one has heard back from Ellen yet, the family has not given up. “We are very persistent and we won’t stop trying. It’s what Sam would have wanted,” said Sara.
On August 27, a 5K was held in East Stroudsburg to raise money to help six local families of fallen first responders including the Agins family. The family wore purple hearts as they ran to honor their hero.
The money they raised will be put into the Samantha C. Agins Memorial Scholarship that the family has put together for Pocono Mount East High School seniors.
The scholarship will be available to individuals in varsity sports or the music program who are planning to attend college with hopes of entering the medical field as a “doctor, nurse, physician’s assistant, physical therapist, dentist etc.”
“We don’t know much about the choosing process yet,” said Sara “It will most likely involve an essay explaining why they want to go into the medical field.”
Donations to the scholarship can be taken to any ESSA branch or mailed to 744 Main St., Stroudsburg Pa 18360.
The family is still coping with the loss of Sam.
“Sam was such an amazing person and I love and miss her more and more every day,” said Sara. She continued, “Sam was a huge inspiration to me. She was my best friend, my idol and my hero.”
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