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heartsaver HERO
Justin and mother

It was February 24, 2017, and my husband, David, and I were both at work. It was a day like any other. Our 15-year-old son, Justin, was at home with our other kids and a friend. The kids were in the backyard playing with a lacrosse ball. Completely normal.

What happened next was, in essence, a “perfect storm.” It turns out that Justin suffered commotio cordis, or cardiac arrest caused by a blunt impact to the chest. It is exceedingly rare, with only about 10 to 20 cases a year. It was almost always fatal until recently, when resuscitation has worked in up to one-third of cases. Essentially, my son’s heart just stopped. No pulse, no heartbeat. Nothing.

The chances of this happening are less than those of being struck by lightning.

Thankfully, the other children acted immediately instead of freezing in fear. His friend called 9-1-1 while my daughter called my husband. That second call proved fateful, as my husband was able to get in touch with a neighbor who ran over and started CPR. That CPR kept blood circulating to Justin’s vital organs until first responders arrived.

In total, Justin was in the hospital for 10 days, and he has now made a full recovery.

Earlier this year, Justin took part in a community education event with our fire department teaching Hands-Only CPR to the public. At least 100 participants showed up, and Justin shared his story as the face of why CPR is so important. At a local university where I work as a nurse lecturer, I’ve volunteered to join the CPR and AED first aid training orientation for incoming freshman.

Know someone who has used CPR or an AED to save a life? Nominate them for a HeartSaver Hero award.