FAIRBORN, Ohio (WKRC) – A local baseball player named Bennett Hart has two mutations on the same gene. That affects his heart.
This, though, is the moment it all caused Fairborn's baseball coach to call the athletic trainers: Jaci Combs and TJ Tillman.
“He said, ‘Bennett Hart! Bennett Hart! Bennet Hart!,” Combs said.
This is the phone call athletic trainers will tell you they are trained for.
“I could see it was Coach [Bronson] Marlett calling, and I remember thinking to myself, ‘Oh I wonder what he’s calling about?' Because he’s not in season right now," Combs said. “I looked at TJ and I said, 'The AED is still in the back of the golf cart, right?’”
Bennett was running stadium stairs last September during baseball conditioning.
“He fell down some amount of stairs and was laying face down here at the bottom,” Combs said while looking at the pavement at the soccer stadium.
“I split off an got the AED out of the garage,” Tillman said.
“I took his pulse and didn’t feel anything,” Combs said.
“We instructed Bronson call EMS and started CPR right away,” Tillman said. “At that point, same with JC, I was in tunnel vision.”
Bennett's internal defibrillator shocked him six times, but his heart stayed in an irregular rhythm the defibrillator no longer recognized. The AED the trainers put on him shocked him two more times.
“That last shock, that No. 8, actually revived him to come around,” said Amanda Hart, Bennett’s mom.
The survival rate of out-of-hospital sudden cardiac arrest is about 1 in 10. Bennett had now suffered his second out-of-hospital cardiac arrest and survived again.
What are those odds?
“I’m really thankful that he is here,” Marlett said. “I’m really thankful that Jaci and TJ were there and able to come at the drop of a hat.”
But Jim and Amanda Hart, Bennett’s parents, understand the odds.
“We’re not going to live life dictated by this issue,” Jim said. “We deal with it, we live with it and we move on.”
“We had people telling us that day that we had saved somebody’s life,” Combs said. “It didn’t feel like that to me. I was full of dread about it, honestly, because we didn’t know what the outcome would be.”
“It didn’t feel like an accomplishment,” Tillman said. “It felt like we did our job and we did the best we could do at that point.”
The athletic trainers, the baseball coach and several others were honored for their actions that day. They followed their emergency action plan just like they had practiced. Now, they are thankful beyond words -- even for the small things.
“It’s helped me look at life in a different perspective,” Bennett said. “More open. That it’s not all just one thing and taking life every moment for granted because anything could happen at any time.”
This is the boy who keeps beating the odds.
“I could feel really lucky, or it could be really unlucky,” Bennett said. “I’m not really sure.”
Now, he is a bowler and a manager for the baseball team.
“Pretty lucky that I go to this school that has AEDs and athletic trainers because I wouldn’t be here without them,” said Bennett.
Bennett's heart rate must remain under 120 to 130 beats per minute or his heart could be at risk of another life-threatening emergency. Wherever he goes now, he carries his own AED.
Cardiologists and sudden cardiac experts told Local 12 that sudden cardiac arrest in athletes is a largely survivable event with prompt treatment and access to an AED.
This story highlights why high schools should have an athletic trainer, AEDs and practice an emergency action plan.