Teen says 13-year-old who died of sudden cardiac arrest could have been saved

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WHAS11.com

Posted on August 15, 2009 at 6:40 PM

Updated Tuesday, Oct 13 at 1:56 PM

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(WHAS11) - Visitation services were held Friday for the teenager who collapsed during basketball practice in Grayson County this week. Keith Walker, 13, died of sudden cardiac arrest while doing practice drills Tuesday.

The coroner says they won't know for weeks what caused his heart to stop. But another Kentucky teenager, who nearly died of cardiac arrest himself, says Walker's death may have been prevented by having a defibrillator inside schools.

Matthew Spicer says an Automated External Defibrillator, or AED, saved his life during a swim meet two years ago. And ever since his near-death experience, he's been on a mission to make AEDs readily available at every sporting event or practice in Kentucky. He says every child should get the second chance at life that he had.

Spicer has a heart condition called Polymorphic catecholergic ventricular tachycardia, also known as CPTV but he seemed perfectly healthy until everything went black at a swim meet in November of 2006.

"I just remember blacking out," says Matthew. "I went into sudden cardiac arrest and stopped breathing."

Paramedics arrived and used a defibrillator to save Matthew's life. The devices are required at school athletic facilities in other states like Ohio and Arkansas, but not in Kentucky.

"Each school should have a defibrillator for the safety of the kids," says Rep. Derrick Graham (D- District 57). "Not only for the safety of the kids, but the personnel involved with the kids as well."

With the help of Rep. Graham, Matthew drafted a bill and took it to the Kentucky legislature. He says AEDs in schools could save lives like Keith Walker's. He died Tuesday of sudden cardiac arrest during basketball practice at Grayson County Middle School. That school did not have a defibrillator.

"We have three children who have died that an AED could have possibly saved," says Dale Spicer, Matthew's father. "That's too many. One is too many."

Doctors don't know what caused Keith Walker's heart to stop, but it could have been a condition like Matthew's - that's undetectable until something triggers it. A defibrillator works by delivering electric energy to restore normal heart rhythm. The device can't shock someone who doesn't need it. But it does cost money; one AED runs around $1200. But for Matthew's fight, he says, there isn't a price tag.

"Really," asks Matthew, "What's the price of a kid's life?"

The bill outlines that the money for AEDs could come from revenue from athletic events, grants or even donations. Franklin county high schools now have AEDs now thanks to donations from the Frankfort Fire Department. The bill didn't make it into committee last legislative session, but they plan to re-introduce it in the January session.

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