Thursday, March 29, 2007

Trinity Player's Dad: 'A Miracle' Son's Alive

"It wasn't looking good" for lacrosse player struck in chest, father says.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 03/29/07

Blessed Trinity lacrosse player Matt Ivie, who suffered a life-threatening injury when he was struck by the ball in the chest during a March 16 match, said he plans to return to sport this season.

School officials have declined to speak on the incident, but David Ivie, the player's father said he thought "had lost his son for a minute or two" after he was struck in the heart area from a ball hurled from around five feet away traveling as fast as 80 mph.

"I really thought he was maybe slipping away," the elder Ivie said.

"He was motionless, he wasn't breathing, and the trainer said his pulse was getting weaker and weaker. His eyes were open, but the pupils weren't moving. He had blood coming out of his mouth and nose.

"It wasn't looking good, that's for sure."

Ivie said Blessed Trinity trainer Preston Bazemore had cut off his son's uniform, and hooked up electrodes from the defibrillator across the chest area. Fortunately, the shock treatment was not needed because the player somehow regained consciousness.

"Matt blinked, and then he coughed, as if he was under water for a long time. Then he took a deep, deep breath. It was a miracle."

When a lacrosse ball, baseball, hockey puck, softball strikes a player near the heart area at a precise moment between beats, it can cause contractions that lead to rare from of death called "commotio cordis." According to U.S. Commotio Cordis Registry, more than 130 cases had been reported by 2001.

The elder Ivie said while doctors say his son's life was "in danger," they don't believe he experienced commotio cordis because only the use of a defibrillator can restart the heart, and Blessed Trinity's defibrillator was hooked up but never used. He said the doctors were reviewing the readings from the machine, but may never know exactly what happened.

Matt, 16, said the only thing he remembers is falling to the ground after the ball deflected off his body in Roswell private school's match against McIntosh, which was immediately canceled after the incident. Ivie was transferred to Scottish Rite hospital, where he said he was diagnosed with bruised heart and lung and remained under observation for two days.

"It was a freak accident, but it made me think about what I am doing with my life, and how I should change it around because you never know if today will be your last day," Matt said. "I feel lucky to be alive, and I am so thankful to Mr. Bazemore."

Matt said his chest area remains sore, but that doctors told him he suffered no permanent damage and could be given clearance to return to lacrosse by the second week of April. His parents have purchased a pair of shoulder pads that are longer in front, providing more protection for the chest area.

"We decided we wanted to tell Matt's story because we want to get the word out about this [danger]," the elder Ivie said.

"Even though there may be only one chance in a million of this happening, there's still a chance. Fortunately, Blessed Trinity had the right people and right equipment when it happened. They invested in those resources for the safety of our children.

"There may be other schools out there that don't think they need these resources at lacrosse matches or other events, but hearing about this may convince them otherwise, to make it more of a priority."

© 2007 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

New Cardiac Arrest Guidelines for Athletes

WASHINGTON, March 29 (UPI) The Inter-Association Task Force has established recommendations for U.S. high school and college athletic programs to treat sudden cardiac arrest.

The guidelines in the April edition of Heart Rhythm address prompt recognition of sudden cardiac arrest and early activation of the emergency medical service system.

The presence of a trained rescuer to initiate CPR and access to an automated external defibrillator for early defibrillation are essential to ensure that athletes receive immediate treatment.

When an athlete collapses and is unresponsive, it's recommended to apply an automated external defibrillator to the athlete for rhythm analysis as soon as possible, ideally in under three to five minutes, according to lead author Dr. Jonathan Drezner of the Hall Health Sports Medicine Clinic at the University of Washington in Seattle.

Sudden cardiac arrest can be mistaken for other medical problems, but responders should assume it's sudden cardiac arrest until proven otherwise, says Drezner.

Everyone associated with an athletic program should be familiar with sudden cardiac arrest to increase the athlete's chance of survival, Drezner says.

Copyright 2007 by United Press International

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Playing for Louis

Siena lacrosse players promote use of defibrillators to honor a late friend

By Pete Iorizzo, Staff writer
First published: Sunday, March 25, 2007
LOUDONVILLE - Matt Donovan's left leg bears the tattoo of a cross, a symbol to celebrate his friend's life and mourn his death.

Brian Cordts taps the goalpost 12 times before every lacrosse game, because his friend wore that number right up until the day he died playing the sport he loved.

Donovan and Cordts charted similar paths to the men's lacrosse team: Both starred at Northport High, on Long Island. Both bounced through colleges and junior colleges. Both settled in Loudonville, where they are helping revitalize the Saints' lacrosse program.

And both pursue their sport for the same purpose -- to honor their friend and Northport teammate, whose death seven years ago today at first left a community grief-stricken, then made it the front line of a battle to save lives.

"Everything I do in lacrosse, it's for him," said Donovan, a senior attackman.

Donovan's friend, Louis Acompora, was just 14 years old and playing for the Northport freshman team when a freak accident took his life.

A shot struck Acompora, a goalie, in the chest at the precise instant his heart rested between beats. Acompora corralled the ball, flung it back into play, then collapsed in cardiac arrest. He was pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital.

Acompora's parents later learned the rare condition that led to Louis Acompora's death is called commotio cordis; it occurs when a person suffers a blow to the chest between heart beats. If Northport had had defibrillators nearby, Louis Acompora might have been saved.

Within weeks, his parents, John and Karen, established the Louis Acompora Foundation. Its primary mission is the passage of laws to require that every school have a defibrillator. Two years after Louis Acompora died, New York became the first state to pass such a law. By John Acompora's count, the law has saved at least 30 lives.

John Acompora credits Louis' friends and teammates, like Cordts and Donovan, for helping publicize the foundation's mission.

"To convey how special it is that Matt and Brian are keeping Louis alive by stepping on the field is just impossible," John Acompora said.

Donovan and Cordts, in turn, credit Louis Acompora for their lacrosse careers.

Cordts played baseball until ninth grade, even though Louis Acompora always insisted, "Come give lacrosse a try." On the day Louis Acompora died, Cordts learned he failed to make Northport's baseball team. Within days, he had joined the lacrosse squad.

Despite the circumstances of Louis Acompora's death, Cordts later became a goalie, in part to honor his friend.

"My mom and dad, they both had concerns about me hopping into net," Cordts said. "But I just felt like if Lou were to pick a place to pass, that would have been where he wanted to go."

The Northport freshman team canceled its next two games after Louis Acompora died, because it had no other goalie. Believing his friend would have wanted Northport to continue playing, Donovan volunteered to play goalie until a replacement could be found.

The team finished the season with a 3-10 record.

"It didn't matter," Donovan said. "We weren't playing for wins. We were playing for Louis."

From Northport, where they won a state championship and at one time ranked No. 1 in the country, Donovan and Cordts skipped through several colleges and junior colleges. Cordts started at Cabrini College, then transferred to Suffolk Community College. Donovan started at the University at Albany, transferred to Stony Brook, then moved to Suffolk before settling at Siena.

"Louis aspired to play at a good college," Donovan said. "We kind of took it upon ourselves to do it for him. We wanted to play at the highest level we could for him."

They have succeeded at Siena.

Donovan, at just 5 feet, 9 inches and 155 pounds, led the nation last year in assists. He paces the Saints (2-3) this year with 13 assists and is second with 19 points.

Cordts, whom former Northport coach Bob Macaluso called "a phenomenal athlete," started two of the first five games in goal. He led Siena to a 15-2 win over Merrimack on March 10.

"They're inspired by the memory of Louis Acompora," Macaluso said.

The Louis Acompora Memorial Foundation continues to push for defibrillator laws in more states. The Northport school district was first to implement a defibrillator program. Now, laws are either in effect or being considered in Ohio, California, Delaware and Florida.

Donovan and Cordts continue to honor their friend's memory in subtle ways. Donovan wears socks with the No. 12. Cordts gestures to the sky and says a prayer before each game.

Cordts, a sophomore, wears No. 2 this season, because another player already wears Acompora's number.

"But I'll be 12 next year," Cordts said. "You can be sure of that."

Iorizzo can be reached at 454-5425 or by e-mail @   
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