They’ve got heart: Baseball scare spurs Minnesota nonprofit to donate defibrillatorsWhen 2-year-old Finn High was struck in the chest by an errant baseball in May 2012, his father, Jamie High, braced himself for the inevitable avalanche of tears.
By: Louie St. George III, Duluth News Tribune
When 2-year-old Finn High was struck in the chest by an errant baseball in May 2012, his father, Jamie High, braced himself for the inevitable avalanche of tears.
Instead, Finn collapsed to the ground, not breathing and with no sign of a pulse. Paramedics transported him first to Cambridge (Minn.) Medical Center, then to Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis. Against the odds, Finn survived an often-lethal condition known as commotio cordis with little more than a seriously bruised heart muscle — nothing to scoff at, to be sure, but a blessing when considering the alternative.
If immediate medical attention isn’t provided, reports suggest commotio cordis, which stems from a blunt impact to the chest that causes sudden cardiac arrest, is fatal 80 to 90 percent of the time.
“You just assume at first he’s going to cry like a little kid,” said Jamie High, a 1990 Duluth East graduate now living in Cambridge who’s in Duluth for this weekend’s Art Von Little League tournament. “It was difficult … it was just plain scary to see it happen to your own kid.
“We really lucked out; it could have got a lot worse.”
That troubling reality spawned Play it Safe Minnesota, a nonprofit that distributes automated external defibrillators to youth sports organizations throughout the state.
The portable defibrillators significantly increase the chance of survival from commotio cordis via an electric shock that spurs the heart to return to a more normal rhythm.
High, along with wife Nicole, started Play it Safe Minnesota last summer. Since then, 14 AEDs have been purchased and donated, including one for each field at Cambridge’s sprawling baseball complex. The small electronic devices are surprisingly simple to operate, with voice prompts that guide users step by step.
“Anybody can run the thing,” said Matt Braaten, Play it Safe’s treasurer. “It’s pretty foolproof. It will only shock when it calls for a shock, so even if you put the pads on and you’re all set and ready to go, if the machine says that it doesn’t need to do it, it’s not going to do it.”
Their simplicity and functionality aside, AEDs don’t come cheap. The model displayed Friday at the Lake Park Little League fields runs about $1,500, and some models can cost as much as $3,500.
For Jamie High, it’s money well spent. And he’s committed to continue raising money to ensure that youth sportsassociations across the state are outfitted with AEDs.
“I think there’s really no end to it,” he said. “I’d like to say when every place that needs an AED has one, but I think that’s a pretty long-term goal. Yeah, we plan on doing it long-term.”
Braaten, a high school teacher and coach, agreed.
“I have a son the same age (as Finn),” Braaten said. “(It’s) obviously not your own child, but it hit home just as hard knowing that you have a kid the same age and that it can really happen to anybody.”
High and Braaten are in Duluth this weekend watching their 10-year-old sons compete in the Art Von tournament. Their informational table Friday sat no more than 20 yards from Lake Park Little League’s equipment shed, which houses an AED donated by Play it Safe.
Lake Park president Nick Luoma said his grandfather suffered a heart attack while watching a ballgame three years ago in Cloquet. Consequently, Luoma knew the importance of defibrillators and was thrilled when High contacted him in February.
“Being where we’re at, the response time for medical attention would be quite a wait,” Luoma said of the Lake Park complex’s location out on Jean Duluth Road.
Luoma said his association is looking for another group to utilize the Lake Park AED during the winter.