Bainbridge High School rower Matthew Derry was in top physical condition in January 2015 when he abruptly collapsed near the end of a team practice.
“He was very active and completely healthy,” said his mom, Mary Derry.
The then-sophomore had been erging, going all out on a rowing machine, when he slumped and became unresponsive. A teammate noticed and immediately started CPR, somebody called 911 and firefighters used a defibrillator to save his life.
Derry experienced Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA), the sudden onset of an abnormal and potentially lethal heart rhythm. The condition is the leading killer of exercising student athletes in the United States, but it has no symptoms in 80 percent of cases.
“The first symptom of SCA is often death,” according to Parent Heart Watch, a national advocacy group.
“I had no idea something was wrong with me,” said Derry, a lanky senior with a fiercely competitive spirit. “I’d been exercising five to six times a week for three hours at a time. It can happen to anyone, definitely.”
After three days in a drug-induced coma, five days in intensive care and extensive physical therapy, Derry made a full recovery and was eventually able to resume rowing. Doctors did not find an underlying heart condition or a reason for his collapse, but they implemented a plan to prevent a recurrence. Derry takes beta blockers, has a defibrillator implanted in his body and monitors his heart rate during physical exertion.
Quick action saved the Bainbridge youth, but many young athletes aren’t as lucky. A U.S. student athlete dies every three days because of SCA, yet the standard sports physical does not screen for conditions that could cause it.
That’s why the Nick of Time Foundation has partnered with the University of Washington to provide low-cost heart…