Posts tagged CPR


Childhood-is there anything I would change?  That opens so many doors.  Of course as a parent and grandparents, there are many philosophies, ideas, decisions that we all wish we could change. Since it is late and I am tired I will stay with one thing that I wish I could change about my childhood and one thing I wish I could change about being a mother.

I was an only child.  I hated it. It was often lonely, I never really felt good about myself or happy.  It wasn’t for lack of love, perhaps, I had more than I could handle.  I lived next door to my grandparents, and my aunt and uncle.  They had not children. We even had a “party line” telephone.  You have to be pretty old to remember when two people shared one :line” and even though they had separate phone numbers, if one “person was on the phone, not only could you hear their conversation, you could not make a call of your own.  Imagine being a teen sharing a phone with six adult who could listen in or pick up the phone at anytime.  I have always referred to my childhood as “Life under the microscope.”

The natural wish for an only child ho hated it is to ant a big family of her own.  Through many trials and difficulties, I did have a big family-4 boys and 2 girls. There are so many things that a parent wishes they had done differently when the numerous decisions of being a parent have to be made.  NO! becomes an echo, of sorts. Each child is different. One approach to a problem make work well for one child and not at all for another.  I always felt it was important for my teens to learn to say “No’ on their own. I would tell them, they we welcome to say, “I can’t do that, mom would kill me if she found out.”, but one day. mom or dad may not be there and they would have to have the courage to say “no” on their own.  I think I did a good job with this philosophy on the big decisions, but one winter, when my 5th child,a son told me he didn’t want to play baseball on the school team, I was elated. I had been having thoughts and dreams about something happening to him elated to baseball.  The thoughts  and feeling really didn’t make sense. I never liked baseball, and thought that maybe it was just that I was glad I wouldn’t have to put up with the practices and games in bad weather, the schedule conflicts and such.

My son, nearly 15, did not play in spring or summer.  My heart was so relieved.  I actually believed God was helping me avoid some crisis when he decided not to play.  Then one day right after school started, we were getting ready to leave when his friends and a father who was going to coach “fall ball” zoomed up our driveway and begged my son to go to their last practice.  Out of boredom, he decide to go, it was just one game.  he still liked to play, just not on an organized team.

I reluctantly said it was alright, but when he came home, he slammed down the new hat and jersey and said, Mom, I don’t want to play” and they just threw the uniform at me and said “See ya at the game.”

“Call the and tell them you aren’t playing>’ I said, reminding him that he had promised not to play.

” I can’t”. He said, his he turned to the floor, “They said they wouldn’t have enough players without me and I can’t disappoint my friends.”

I wanted so bad to tell him, “Then I will say NO for you” But I didn’t.  I remembered my vow to make them learn to ay “no” on their own. I actually felt like God was telling me that I had to let him learn this lesson, he was 15, a sophomore in high school.

“It is only a few weeks I said, a tear running down my cheek.  The feeling of worry kept coming back about something bad happening to him that involved baseball. I had prayed and prayed about it. i felt God had promised to keep him safe and me strong, that God had jobs for us to do, and he was with us.

On the night of October 4, 2006, my husband, younger son , my 15-year-old and his best friend prepared to go to his second game in three days. I had to hurry home from volunteering to coach a play at my younger sons school and we were running late.  I quickly opened the door when i got home , and  my son was standing there with his quiet sly smile.  “Oh, you scared me!” I said.

We grabbed something to eat at a fast food place and hurried to the game.  Twice, I almost took his picture and didn’t because this as in the day of film and I as about on my last shot.  I came so close to taking his picture when he made a great double and stole third.  The next player struck out.  He told a friend in the dugout that h didn’t feel good, but he went on to right field, expecting not to have to do much and it was the last inning.

Before they started playing again, I heard a mom say, “Is something wrong with Andrew?” and looked out to see him holding his head.  He started running to me, and I started running to him. Right as i got to him, he grabbed his chest, then threw his hands out as if to break a fall.

He landed hard on the ground, I will never forget the slow-motion scene of him falling in the dirt, hitting his nose and forehead as dust rose around him.  I was screaming, ” Call 911! Call 911! A parent called out that they would as everyone crowded around my son.

He was unconscious, unresponsive. No one knew what to do, There was a fire station within sight of the park, and we were all looking for the fire truck  to take a left and rush down the parking lot. They didn’t.  I honestly feel the man who called 911 panicked and hung up before telling the operator that the child wasn’t hurt playing and that the fire dept. was right above us.  It was 10-12 minutes before an ambulance came. A man ran us, said he was a nurse, but did nothing.

“He isn’t breathing well”. The nurse said, and I was crying “Well, can;t you do something?  All he did was turn his head upward a bit.  At this time,we had been taught not to do CPR if the patient was breathing-it is what i was taught, and perhaps he was as well. Finally, an ambulance came. His blood gases were very bad, as rode to the hospital in the ambulance, i could see the ambulance attendance using a defibrillator on him.  I coudn’t believe it his heart had stopped.

A  chaplain met  us at the hospital door.  My husband and the whole team we already there-before the ambulance. For an hour, we were consoled, given hope, then told his condition was very bad.  When the chaplain told us to bring the family to a side room, we knew what we would hear.

“You mean he’s dead?” I sobbed, shaking,nauseous.   I don’t even remember the doctors words, just some “we tried so hard” statement and the chaplain asking us if we wanted to go see him, warning us to be quiet that there were other patients in the emergency room.

The rest is a story of shock, grief and the purest of hell a mother can face.  My handsome healthy 15-year-old was dead and we had no idea why. He n no sign of sickness.  We later found out he had contracted “viral myocarditis” and the last play, the great hit, stealing third base.  I guess his heart got out of rhythm then, because he had told several friends h didn’t feel well.

This has been a long story to tell the reader the thing I wish most i could change about being a parent.  It is saying “NO”, for your child, when they don’t do it themselves.  If i had, my son would likely be here, if the ambulance we could see had come, if we had already left that day his friends pulled up, wanting him to come to their “last” practice.

There will be people who are angry at me for writing this, they may make up excuses fir God, or say other ridiculous, irrelevant things.  All mothers who have lost a child have heard them.  My only point here is to answer the question asked by the prompt-“If you could change ONE thing…”  and  my answer is this, “I would not be afraid to say “NO” if that is what my heart was telling me I should do.

Please read my other blogs on Parent Heart Watch and on loosing my son.


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Parent Heart Watch-How to Help Save the Life of a Young Athlete


My son, age 15

Knowledge and prompt response are the keys to saving anyone with sudden heart arrest.

Parent Heart Watch is a wonderful organization dedicated to preventing the death of young athletes (and youth in general) from Sudden Cardiac Arrest.  I became aware of them after the death of my teenaged son, who died while playing baseball in 2006.  As I searched for a reason why a healthy, active child could die without warning, I found this group and have since supported them.  I ask all of you to do the same. Their website is :  Their phone number is 1-800-717-5828.

I recently became part of a fund raiser “Register to Relax” where supporters simply donate to the organization and encourage others to do so.  It is an on-going fund raiser. Since I get their regular e-mail bulletins, I heard about another campaign to raise awareness of this life or death issue.

I contacted Parent Heart Watch after they informed me of a campaign to give out magnets with information on how to detect symptoms of possible heart failure and steps that could be taken to prevent it.  They sent me 100 magnets, which I hope to give out at schools, churches, and in my neighborhood, along with a letter about what happened to my son. I hope to help them raise money to further their cause and keep other families from going through what our family has endured.

Yesterday, my middle-school student came home and told me that volunteers from a local hospital supported  by Parent Heart Watch had come to his school and given a short (but important) course in CPR/chest compression techniques that anyone could use while waiting on help to arrive.  They told the children how to watch for signs of possible heart issues in their friends. I am proud to support this organization and know that is working across the country to stop these horrific losses.

I can’t help but think that my son would be alive today if I, (or someone there)
had known the information that Parent Heart Watch seeks to teach. Even the information on the tablet-sized magnet could save a life. Parent Heart Watch encourages early detection of possible heart issues and early defibrillation of apparent heart related emergencies.

This is our story. Our son had hit  a great double and  made a steal to 3rd base in the previous inning, but the next player had made the last out of the 6th inning. Our son
had gone to his position in  right field  as the other pitcher and catcher practiced for the last inning. I later heard he had told a team mate after the 6th inning that he didn’t feel good. But, my son’s motto was “What don’t kill ya will make ya stronger,”  He went out for the last inning anyway. That statement has haunted me,

Someone. saw my son grab his head and said, “Is he hurt?”  I looked up and saw him running to me. I began running to meet him.   A few feet from me, he threw up his hands, as if to catch himself, and fell, apparently loosing consciousness. I later found out that his best friend, who was playing second base, had asked him what was wrong, and my son turned to him quickly and said, “I don’t feel good, I’m gonna have to go in”. That was the last thing he said.

It seems that no one on the field knew what to do, even a “nurse” who ran up to us  didn’t immediately recognize that this was a heart issue.  The ambulance, dispatched from a station within sight of the ball field, took a long back road, trying to get the ambulance closer to the field. To my knowledge, the 911 operator didn’t stay on the phone with the parent who made the call. I have seen a lot of kids collapse on ball fields/courts, but have never seen one die, as my son did.  The coaches and parents were most likely in the same category as I was.

I will add that once the ambulance arrived on the scene they worked diligently to save my son. I saw them trying to defibrillate him front the passenger seat of the ambulance.  The emergency room doctors worked on him over an hour.  A chaplain stayed  with us and brought reports from the doctors. The problem was, that time is everything in the case of sudden heart arrest, and it was too late for my son when help arrived.  I had taken CPR many years before, but had no idea that my son  was in arrest.  When he was obviously unresponsive, I am not sure why the “nurse” didn’t think of the possibility of heart issue.
I must continue stressing the importance of early  response in the case of any heart issue. On Parent Heart Watch’s magnet, it lists things you can do to properly respond to cardiac emergencies.  They stress that we must know how to respond to “SCA” (Sudden Cardiac Arrest), which means that a person has collapsed and is unresponsive. Below is a list of symptoms and responses.

(1) The person may have seizure-like activity or gasping and gurgling. (My son developed a “snore-like gurgling as he struggled to breath). This should be recognized a  cardiac emergency.

(2) Always call 911 immediately.

(2) Begin CPR manually immediately. (I have learned that even cardiac compressions to the tune and rhythm of the Bee Gee’s song “Stayin’ Alive” will work in many cases.)

(4) Having a portable defibrillator on site is vital-use it immediately if the symptoms of a cardiac emergency are noted.

My son was 15 years old when he was talked into playing baseball on a league based on groups of friends from different communities in our area.  He had played baseball and basketball for years, but had tired of organized and school related ball and hadn’t played in about a year. Though he had been given “sports physicals” in previous years, he had not planned on playing for school and he asked to wait to have a physical. I agreed.  He was very healthy, rarely getting sick enough to stay out of school.  He used to joke with me about wanting to stay home, Smiling at me and saying, “Can I be absent?”

At the time of my sons death, even national organizations such as the Little League and the YMCA did not require physicals.  They simply had a parent sign a paper that said they knew of no health issue that would keep their child from participating. Even the schools, who did require a “sports physical” did not require an Echocardiogram, which is the only certain way to note heart issues. I do not know if these rules have changed.

After his death, the autopsy revealed my son  had a bicuspid valve, which is relatively common and rarely causes problems until middle age, and may never warrant anything but precautions if one is not athletic. His official cause of death was “viral myocarditis”, which, as the medical examiner explained to mean meant that “an unidentified cold virus got into his heart” and caused the infection which lead to heart failure.

The medical examiner said the bicuspid valve probably didn’t directly cause his death.  People sometimes get virus  and recover within a short time, thinking that perhaps, they had the “flu,“ My cousin had the same condition, but was saved when he had symptoms of bronchitis and an alert emergency room physician noticed his symptoms and was able to get his heart back in rhythm with a defibrillator.  My cousin  also had a bicuspid valve, and though he was in his 50’s at the time, it had never been detected.

The point here is that my son most likely would not have been playing ball if we had known about the bicuspid valve. If he had been allowed to play, we should have been aware of the “Warning Signs and Symptoms of a Heart Condition” as outlined by Parent Heart Watch.

These symptoms are :
(1) Fainting, or seizure during or after physical activity, emotional excitement, distress or startle.
(2) Unusual shortness of breath ,fatigue or tiredness (our son did seem tired, but most teens do not get enough sleep and that, alone, would not alarm us if it wasn’t a lengthy, noticeable tiredness, possibly with the teen saying that they “feel tired all of the time.”)

(3) Chest pain or discomfort or racing heart.

(4) Dizziness during or after physical activity.

Only a year before, a  local 23 year old school teacher that we knew had died in his sleep of “viral myocarditis” after having symptoms of pain in his back and chest the day before. He though he may be getting sick, but had no idea or symptom that caused immediate alarm. To emphasize how common hear issues are in athletic young people, the nephew of my sister-in-law died a day after collapsing on the first during football practice.  He was a 22 year old college senior.

Sudden Cardiac Arrest in youth is not the “one in a million” event that people like to believe it is. It is estimated that around two or three teenagers in every mid-sized high  school have some sort of heart issue which at least should be detected and the parents be made aware of.  Even if heart issues were a “one-in-a-million” crisis, if that one is your one, that is the only one that matters.
Therein becomes the importance of Parent Heart Watch’s other goal-Early Detection of heart issues.

Sometimes, as with our son, there were no early symptoms.  Thus, the importance of early detection of possible problems. The most important test for early detection of possible heart issues is for every teen athlete (possibly every teen period) to get an Echocardiogram, which would show heart abnormalities, such as bicuspid valves, “holes” or weaknesses in the heart muscle, mitral valve prolapse (heart murmur) or other issues.

Please, take the time to learn these symptoms and procedures, whether you are a young student or a retiree.  They  may help save a life. Please support Parent Heart Watch in its efforts to educate the public on this critical issues. Loosing a child has devastated my life, and damaged so many more.  Every day, I think of who my son might have become and of how much he is loved and missed.  You can stop another child from dying.  You can keep another family from going through this hell.  Maybe, in your case, “What don’t kill
ya really will make you strong.  Contact Parent Heart Watch today and get involved!

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