On Friday night, running back Hayward Demison made a heart-stopping run to give Central Catholic (Ore.) High School a 28-24, come-from-behind win over Canby High. The issue, as Demison told NBC's "Today" show Tuesday morning, is that his heart was the one that stopped.
After racing 45 yards to the end zone, Demison went to the sideline and asked for his inhaler -- he was diagnosed with athletic asthma two years ago -- and took a puff. But instead of easing Demison's breathing, the inhaler actually made his heart start to race even faster. The junior leaned against an assistant coach and, moments later, collapsed to the turf.
"I just fell on the ground," Demison told The Portland Oregonian. "I don't remember anything else except waking up a few minutes later, and people are standing over me, and I'm in shock. I'm trying to get up, and everybody's saying, 'Stay there. Calm down.' I looked to my left and saw everybody, and they were crying."
According to the Oregonian and WKGW-TV, Demison's heart stopped for nearly a full two minutes before the wife of Central Catholic's statistician, Linda Lyver, who happens to be a cardiac nurse, headed down to the sidelines and noticed that Demison was suffering from something much more than a typical asthma attack.
Here's what Lyver told The Oregonian about her first thoughts after reaching Demison:
"I thought, 'You know, maybe I should just head down there,'" Lyver said. "By the time I got to the track, I saw that they were lifting his legs up and I thought, 'Well, this is kind of right up my alley. This might be something I might be able to help with.'" [...]
"I'm looking at him and I'm thinking, 'It sure doesn't look like an asthma attack,' " Lyver said. "And I looked at his eyes and there was absolutely no reaction. He wasn't breathing." [...]
"In training, they tell you that you need a defibrillator for people to come back, because they just don't come back with CPR," Lyver said. "So he is absolutely one of the luckiest ones."
Demison recovered after Lyver performed emergency CPR, needing 60 chest compressions and two breaths to get Demison's pulse re-started. Now the junior is in a nearby hospital recovering from the episode, which will sideline him for the rest of the season.
Further testing determined that Demison suffers from a heart defect that limited the amount of blood from his left coronary artery, a condition which left him without enough blood reaching his heart during exertion. He will have to undergo surgery in the next month to correct the condition, and should make a full recovery for his senior season.
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"I'm just happy to be alive," Demison told The Oregonian. "The person that gave me CPR saved my life. I'm very thankful. I'm truly blessed. It was a close call. [...]
"Hopefully I'll be back, after everything is taken care of."
The incident has also spurred activism from Demison's father, who has used his son's incident to call for mandatory heart screening of all high school athletes, according to KATU-TV. Hayward Demison II said that he hoped to work with the parents of David Heller, a former Central Catholic athlete who died in his sleep five years ago following a basketball game. He was later diagnosed with an enlarged heart.
Thanks to a foundation set up by Heller's parents, more than 300 student athletes had heart screenings last May, but Demison II said that even more should be done.
"I want this a law, and I won’t stop," Hayward Demison II told KATU-TV. "I'm going to push it that no other family -- starting in Oregon and across the United States -- has to go through it.
"The laws need to change. It needs to get out there that we need to change these laws and make it a part of the physical that they have to get their heart checked."
While Demison's parents, coaches and teammates might be most relieved to hear that, the person who helped save him was also comforted by his prospects of eventual recovery, according to The Oregonian.
"We really want to thank her," Hayward Demison II said. "Thank God she was there."
Said Lyver: "It was where I was supposed to be. Seventeen-year-olds aren't supposed to die, especially on the football field."