What happens when the chain of survival breaks? Or never begins?

Seconds count during a cardiac arrest. Every single minutes that passes is critical, because when the heart stops, the lack of oxygenated blood can cause brain damage in only a few minutes.  Death or permanent brain damage can occur within four to six minutes.

Zeke Ushaw, a former Illinois State University basketball player, had no idea he could be the victim of Sudden Cardiac Arrest. He was the epitome of fitness. To watch him play in his NBA G league game that day, one would never suspect anything was wrong. During the game, you watch him run up and down the court, shoot baskets, and work hard for his team to secure a win- there was no indication of what was to come next.

Suddenly, and without warning, Zeke falls to his knees and collapses on the floor with less than 50 seconds left in the fourth quarter. The confusion that follows is palpable- no initiation of CPR, no use of a defibrillator, no sense of urgency.

According to Dr. Sam Ghali, “the reason Zeke didn’t receive immediate life-saving treatment is not because nobody cared. It’s because nobody recognized right away that he was in Cardiac Arrest.” He states further that the most common reason young people go into Cardiac Arrest is their heart suddenly goes into an abnormal rhythm because of undetected structural abnormalities they were born with and have had their entire lives. He urges “so when a young athlete collapses to the ground, please think Sudden Cardiac Arrest. What can save their life is immediate CPR and using an AED (Automated External Defibrillator) to shock their heart back into a normal rhythm.”

Unfortunately, the Chain of Survival (CPR coupled with the use of a defibrillator) never began for Zeke. Zeke died a couple days later due to irreversible brain damage. Medical intervention in those crucial moments, very well could have saved Zeke’s life, but education and awareness is lacking.

Education. Awareness. Action. They are literally the difference between life and death during a Sudden Cardiac Arrest. We hope this story is a call to action: to get CPR/AED certified, to intervene as a bystander in the event of a cardiac arrest, and to share the importance of certification with others.