By KD REEP | Photography by SARAH ODEN
“I can remember taking punt returns, but that’s all until I woke up in the hospital room.”
“We ran out on the field, and we saw Josh laying there,” remembers Kelli Pierce, Josh’s mom. “He was this purplish, grayish, blue color and they were working on him. They didn’t want us to see him, but we saw him and we knew that it was bad.” Josh Pierce, a freshman outside linebacker for Watson Chapel Junior High, collapsed on the football field from sudden cardiac arrest during a game against the Monticello Middle School Billies. He was 14 years old. “I just fell over,” Josh recalls. “It wasn’t until I was at Arkansas Children’s Hospital that I knew anything went on.”
Josh, who now works for Bank OZK in deposit operations in Ozark, AR, was saved because of the quick actions of nurses attending the game, his coach and a teammate. According to Kelli, CPR and the automatic external defibrillator (AED) available in the Watson Chapel Field House, brought Josh back to life and helped sustain him until he arrived at the hospital. “An ambulance took him to Jefferson Regional Medical Center in Pine Bluff, and after talking with the medical team there, we all decided he should go to Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock,” Josh was airlifted to the hospital and admitted for a week. “It was a long journey for Josh because he was very active and couldn’t be to that extent of activity any longer.” Josh adds, “I was in denial for quite a while. I remember going for a jog, and because my heart rate was so elevated, it triggered my defibrillator. It felt like I was kicked by a mule right between my shoulder blades.”
According to the American Heart Association – Central Arkansas, 23,000 children experience cardiac arrest each year. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is an emergency life-saving procedure performed when the heart stops beating. Immediate CPR can double or triple chances of survival after cardiac arrest, and children as young as 9 years old can learn hands-only CPR. “I fully believe God placed those four nurses at that game, and CPR is what saved his life,” Kelli explains. “We found out later the AED was used to shock him twice on the field.” As a result of these procedures, the Pierce family purchased two AED units for the girls’ softball team and the boys’ baseball team at Watson Chapel to travel with in case of emergency.
Josh is engaged to be married later this year and encourages everyone to learn hands-only CPR and become familiar with the AED locations – simple preparations to save a life. Kelli elaborates, “We’ve learned from the American Heart Association that 70 percent of Americans feel helpless to act during a cardiac event, and less than half of people receive CPR from bystanders before professional help arrives.” She notes there is only a 10 percent survival rate if a cardiac event happens outside of the hospital. The American Heart Association has launched the Nation of Lifesavers Campaign as an initiative to double the national survival rate from 10 percent to 20 percent by 2030 and train at least one member of every household. “Anyone can learn hands-only CPR, which can be used on teens and adults, at any time, free of charge. It saved my son’s life, and it can save someone you love, too.”
American Heart Association – Central Arkansas