Desperate situations can bring out the best in people, and stories of individual heroism are often associated with our adult emergency responders.

If ever there was a poster child for young responders it would be 12-year old Miranda Bowman of Burlington Township, N.J. She was recently returning home with her grandfather, Paul Parker, after an afternoon of go-karting when the 63-year-old man told her he wasn't feeling well.

Miranda was talking to keep her grandfather alert, as he had instructed, when she heard his head hit the driver's side window of the pickup truck. He had suffered a fatal heart attack behind the wheel and ominously, his foot was still pressed on the accelerator.

After what she termed a "freak out" the girl undid her seat belt and had the presence of mind to climb underneath the steering wheel and press on the brake as hard as she could. She later explained that she was always observant of people driving, and knew it was critical to head for the brake.

Although the car was slowing down, it was still going too fast and Miranda knew she had to find a place to force it to a stop. In order to not hurt anyone else, she decided to run it into some trees along the road. A woman trailing saw the pickup swerving and called 911.

After putting the vehicle into the wooded area where it stopped, Miranda still had to free herself from the truck. After managing to kick open the passenger side door and climbing out, she fell to her knees and cried. She then called her mother, announcing the tragic news, "Mom, we were in an accident and Pop-pop is dead."

Her mother, Stephanie Bowman, was numbed by emotion, stating that she was very grateful to have her daughter homer safe with her but was also mourning the loss of her father at the same time.

Miranda, who wants to be a sign language interpreter when she is an adult, said she was able to react quickly during the emergency situation because her father is an EMT and she also watches a lot of "Law and Order" on television.

Miranda's story only proves the importance of those awareness and CPR training classes that are often made available by our local health networks or through community groups and churches.

With football training camps about to go into full swing for the upcoming fall sports season, being prepared for any kind of health emergency takes on a great deal of importance. Every year, 2,000 students die of sudden cardiac arrest and it's important to note that this is the number one killer of student athletes.

Two months ago Gov. Tom Corbett signed a new law that is the first in the nation to focus on preventing sudden cardiac arrest and death in student athletes. It calls for coaches, parents and students to learn about the symptoms of sudden cardiac arrest.

Dr. Ronald Savarese, director of electrophysiology with York Heart and Vascular Specialists, says the new legislation will be very helpful in dealing with those who display any symptoms of sudden cardiac arrest.

"It can affect anybody from a college athlete to a first-grader playing on the playground," Savarese said. "The disease can happen in anybody."

By Jim Zbick

jzbick@tnonline.com