Casey – Sudden Cardiac Arrest

Casey wearing a backpack and smiling under a tree

Casey is an extremely active middle schooler – he’s a competitive swimmer and formerly ran track and cross country.

But during a neighborhood 5K race in June 2022, Casey went into sudden cardiac arrest and collapsed.

“Casey was completely fine before the race,” says his mom, Shannon. “There weren’t any symptoms indicating that there was a problem. It was shocking.”

Casey wearing a shirt that says "LEBO SWIMMING" and holding foodSudden cardiac arrest is a medical emergency that occurs when the heart suddenly stops beating and no longer pumps blood to your body, causing loss of consciousness. Cardiac arrest can lead to death if the heart isn’t restarted within minutes.

Immediately, bystanders at the race began performing CPR on Casey. After about ten minutes, the EMT team arrived and took over CPR until Casey’s heartbeat returned.

“Casey was transported to UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh for further medical treatment,” says Shannon. “He was still unconscious when we arrived at the hospital.”

The team at UPMC Children’s placed Casey into a medically induced coma and used therapeutic hypothermia to cool his body. This helps reduce injury to the brain following cardiac arrest.

“The entire staff was so supportive during this time,” says Shannon. “The nurses would talk to Casey and were working around the clock to care for him.”

After several days, Casey’s care team began bringing him out of the coma.

“When Casey opened his eyes, it was a huge relief,” says Shannon. “We weren’t sure what his cognitive function was at that point. We did consistent therapy, including physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy. He ended up walking out of the hospital on June 15, just eleven days after the race.”

Casey regularly saw the team at UPMC Children’s for follow-up care and rehab appointments to rebuild his strength. In July 2022, Casey’s primary cardiologist, Gaurav Arora, MD, recommended that Casey receive a defibrillator to monitor his heart and help restore a normal heart rhythm if needed.

Casey’s rehab helped to build his strength and return him to everyday activities. He went back to school in fall 2022 as normal. Eventually, Casey was able to begin participating in sports and swimming competitively again.

“In June 2023, Casey ran the race again,” says Shannon. “Casey told me that in order to move on, he needed to cross the finish line. And he did – wearing a Damar Hamlin jersey! It was such an impactful moment. In August, Casey got to meet Damar Hamlin, the NFL player who experienced an episode of sudden cardiac arrest in 2023 and share his story.”

Casey’s experience has a lasting impact on his family and the community around him.

“I credit the bystanders and the EMTs for saving Casey’s life,” says Shannon. “It’s important for people to learn CPR and understand that this could make all the difference. I’ve become extremely passionate about educating others about CPR and helping them become certified.”

To learn more about responding to cardiac events, or to register for an upcoming CPR training session, click here.

Casey’s treatment and results may not be representative of similar cases.