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Mother saves her 16-year-old son after he collapses on the soccer field

Doctor at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford says it was her quick action that “made all the difference in the world.”

Jose Agredano

For immediate release:
February 23, 2017

PALO ALTO, Calif. -- Jose Agredano, Jr., 16, was released Saturday February, 18 from Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford following an unexpected and life-threatening incident on Thursday, February 16. Doctors believe he suffered what’s known as a commotio cordis — cardiac arrest caused by a blunt impact to the chest.

Agredano, a sophomore at San Benito High School, was in the middle of an intense soccer game at Watsonville High School when he was hit with the ball in his chest. “It didn’t feel right,” he recalled.

“After the ball hit my chest, I passed the ball, took two steps and lost my balance. My vision went, and I started spinning,” he said. “I kneeled down and put my hands on the ground, and the next thing I remember, I was being put into an ambulance.”

His parents were at the game. His mother, Gina Agredano, said she was chatting with another parent when she heard her husband, Jose Sr., say, “There’s something wrong with Jose.” Both parents ran onto the field toward their son, who was on the ground and unresponsive.

Gina, who is a physician, immediately began assessing her son. She hadn’t seen the play and assumed it was a head injury. She instructed Jose Sr. to hold his son’s head, and they directed bystanders to call 9-1-1. Jose was still breathing, but he was unresponsive during the roughly 10 minutes that his mother continued to assess him, she was looking for eye response and breathing patterns. When his breath became labored, she knew her son needed oxygen. She sent her husband to meet the paramedics and asked the sports trainer to get the automated external defibrillator (AED), a portable device that checks a person’s heart rhythm and can send an electric shock to the heart to try to restore a normal rhythm. AEDs are used to treat sudden cardiac arrest.

“Right as first responders arrived and my husband left to get them over to us quickly, that’s when Jose stopped breathing and his lips began turning blue,” said Gina. “Up until that moment, I had this emotional connection to the situation as his mother. But at that moment, fight-or-flight kicked in, and I knew I had to begin CPR to save his life.”

She recalls giving chest compressions for about 3 minutes. The trainer returned with the AED right as the first responders arrived on the scene. Gina quickly told them the situation and said their eyes widened and they jumped into action, cutting off Jose’s jersey and placing the AED pads on his chest.

The pad read an irregular heart rhythm and the medics began to shock his heart.

“It was surreal,” said Dr. Agredano. “I’ve seen a lot of things in my career, and I saw a lot of trauma in my residency, but when it’s your child, it’s a whole different thing. I just kept telling myself, ‘we’re not going to die today.’”

After the shocks, Jose came back. He was groggy, but he knew his name, what day it was and where he was. The whole ordeal lasted about 20 minutes, but it felt “like a year” to his parents.

Jose was taken to the emergency room at Watsonville Community Hospital, where he was stabilized and examined by a Packard Children’s pediatrician, Dr. Peter Rowinsky, who arranged for Jose to be transferred to the cardiac intensive care unit (CVICU) at Packard Children’s Hospital. Through a partnership between the two hospitals, Packard Children’s physicians can serve as hospitalists in Watsonville.

“Many victims of commotio cordis do not survive,” said Kathleen Ryan, MD a cardiac intensivist who admitted Jose to the CVICU. Victims are predominantly men under the age of 20, which is when the chest wall finishes developing.

“Commotio cordis causes victims to go into ventricular fibrillation. CPR is not enough because the heart is quivering about 400 to 1,200 times a minute. You need to deliver an electrical shock that defibrillates the quivering heart and shocks it into a normal rhythm again, and statistically this shock needs to happen quickly, within a few minutes. In Jose’s case, the quick action his mother [took by performing CPR and ordering] the AED to be brought over made all the difference in the world.”

All of Jose’s follow-up tests are normal, and doctors do not anticipate there will be any long-term damage. 

Lynda Knight, MSN, RN, Director of the Stanford Children’s Health REVIVE Initiative for Resuscitation Excellence, says this is a reminder of the power of resuscitation education.

“Evidence shows that if a bystander performs immediate CPR, the outcome will be better. Paramedics take, on average, 4 to 8 minutes to arrive, and each minute that someone goes without chest compressions, his or her chance of survival goes down by 10 percent.”

The REVIVE Initiative has trained thousands in the community in bystander CPR and provides their CPR training program to hospital parents upon discharge.

As for the Agredanos, the event was life-changing for all of them.

“I’ll never take anything for granted again,” said Jose Jr. “The last thing I saw before lost consciousness was my parents’ faces. I know how lucky I am.”

Jose Agredano

“We’ve been at hundreds of games and have seen hundreds of hits to the head and chest. Never did we think this was possible,” said Jose Sr. “My wife was the hero. She was calm and efficient. I am so thankful she was there.”

For the sports community, Gina Agredano says it’s a reminder of how critical it is to immediately assess an injured player. “Every second matters, and knowing what to do can make the difference between life and death.”

“If this happens to someone next to me on the field, now I know what to do,” said Jose Jr. “But I want all my friends to know, too.”

 “My being a doctor, my training, that wasn’t what saved him,” said Dr. Agredano. “Knowing the signs that call for administering CPR, which is accessible to anyone, is what saved his life.” 

Media Contact:

Samantha Dorman
sdorman@stanfordchildrens.org
(650) 498-0756

Kate DeTrempe
kdetrempe@stanfordchildrens.org
650-721-8527

About Stanford Children’s Health and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford

Stanford Children’s Health, with Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford at its center, is the Bay Area’s largest health care system exclusively dedicated to children and expectant mothers. As a top-ranked children’s hospital by U.S. News & World Report, we are a leader in providing world-class, nurturing care and achieving extraordinary outcomes in every pediatric and obstetric specialty. Stanford Children’s Health, providing everything from specialty care to general pediatrics, can be accessed through more than 60 locations across Northern California and 100 locations in the U.S. western region. As the pediatric and obstetric teaching hospital for the world-renowned Stanford University School of Medicine, we're cultivating the next generation of medical professionals and are at the forefront of scientific research to improve children’s health outcomes around the world. We are a nonprofit organization committed to supporting the community through meaningful outreach programs and services and providing necessary medical care to families, regardless of their ability to pay. Discover more at stanfordchildrens.org.