Craig Lindsey was just settling in to watch the second half of Archbishop Moeller High School’s lacrosse match against Centerville on May 14 on the MHS campus.
Just a few feet away, the Moeller rugby team was playing a team from Indiana. As the lead athletic trainer for Beacon Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine, Lindsey had assigned an athletic trainer to cover that match while he focused on the lacrosse match.
Still, as the 1988 Clinton Massie High School graduate put it, “two very collision- or contact-oriented sports were going on at the same time” which called for heightened awareness for all involved.
Sitting in a Gator utility vehicle, seemingly standard issue for athletic trainers to get on the move quickly if needed, Lindsey eyed the lacrosse match through a myriad of players on the Moeller sideline.
“Some of our players were in my line of vision,” he said.
The high-velocity lacrosse ball can move suddenly from a player’s stick toward the goal. Sometimes it doesn’t always reach its intended destination. Player traffic between the shooter and the goal can become unknowing targets.
As play continued, a Centerville player moved away from the goal with ball. Grant Mays, someone Lindsey would become all-too-familiar with as things turned out, broke away from the pack and headed upfield.
“He was running with the ball, crossing midfield,” Lindsey explained. “Maybe about 10 or 15 yards past midfield, all in one motion, as I recall, his legs start getting really shaky, like wobbly.”
Mays then passed the ball to a teammate.
“Then he collapses,” Lindsey said.
The comfy seat of the Gator turned into a launching pad as Lindsey sprinted to the opposite sideline where Mays lay on the ground motionless.
Lindsey reached Mays and realized the CHS senior was unconscious.
Mays was breathing “but it was … you could tell it was labored,” Lindsey said.
— — —
Ventricular fibrillation is a heart rhythm problem that occurs when the heart beats with rapid, erratic electrical impulses, according to the Mayo Clinic website. This causes pumping chambers in the heart to quiver uselessly, instead of pumping blood. Regardless of what triggers the ventricular fibrillation “blood pressure can plummet, cutting off blood supply to vital organs.”
There isn’t a definitive answer to the question of how long a person can live once their heart has stopped beating. However, it is certain bad things can begin to happen to your body within just a few minutes.
“Statistics tell us and research tells us that for every minute that goes by that the brain is not receiving oxygenated blood, you lose 10 percent of your ability to survive,” Lindsey said. “We know our window (of time) is very small.”
Commotio Cordis is one of the causes of ventricular fibrillation. Simply put, Lindsey said, Commotio Cordis when the chest wall receives a direct blow while the heart is in between beats.
“That direct blow stuns the heart into this ventricular fibrillation state,” Lindsey said.
According to the National Center for Biotechnical Information website, the survival rate for a victim of Commotio Cordis is 15 percent. Successful resuscitation is often quite difficult, the website noted.
An AED, automated external defribillator, is a medical device that analyzes the heart’s rhythm. The machine will tell someone when an electrical impulse is needed with it’s “shock advised” message. It’s not something medical people want to see, but they realize it is one of the ways they can jump start a stopped heart if needed.
AEDs are portable and are powered by batteries. Lindsey has four of them on campus at Moeller, one of which he keeps with him at all times.
He has used the AED “countless times as far as training is concerned” but he’s never pulled out the pads and applied the use of an AED on a real, live human being.
Just a few months ago, Lindsey replaced the battery and pads, which despite lack of human contact do have an expiration date.
— — —
Grant Mays was hit in the chest with a lacrosse ball on May 14 in the match against Moeller. Lindsey wasn’t able to see the blow and Mays didn’t exhibit any immediate concerns. He ran 30 or 40 yards before finally dropping to the turf.
“As soon as I lifted up his jersey, and saw the reddened and bruised area from the ball mark, from where the ball was shot at him, I knew this was a serious cardiac emergency,” Lindsey said.
Acting quickly, Lindsey grabbed the AED and put the pads on Mays’ chest. The AED began analyzing Mays’ heart.
Lindsey knew he was dealing with Ventricular Fibrillation. He knew Mays’ heart was not getting the proper amount of “oxygenated blood to any of the organs, especially the brain,” he said.
“The pads were in place, no more than two seconds, during that two seconds, the machine is analyzing Grant’s heart rhythm,” Lindsey said.
Lindsey realized time was of the essence. But he wasn’t acting alone in this situation. Lindsey said others on hand were Ashley Higginbotham, an intern from the University of Cincinnati; Rich Wallace, the director of security at Moeller and the chief of police for Amberley Village; Mike Jones, a medic who also is a parent of one of the Centerville players; Dr. Rob Hill, a Moeller parent who came from Florida to watch his son play lacrosse; and assistant athletic trainer Josh Horner, who is normally assigned to Princeton High School but was covering the rugby match on this day.
In a single instant, every one on the scene was given their next order.
“You hear those two words from the unit that you’ve never heard before, that I’ve never heard before … shock advised,” Lindsey said.
“Obviously, there’s a lot of adrenaline running through my body at that time,” Lindsey said. “Rich Wallace pushes that shock button.”
And they waited, focused squarely on Mays, his eyes, his chest, any part of his body to give them a sign things are OK.
“Maybe in two seconds or less, Grant starts breathing (better),” Lindsey said. “Then we get a pulse and then in a few minutes he becomes conscious.”
— — —
May 14 is a date Craig Lindsey won’t soon forget. Many moments from that day have been embedded in his mind.
“In my 21 years, I’ve been under some stressful situations but nothing compares to what happened May 14,” Lindsey said. “I am so blessed that so many of the medical professionals there that day came out to assist me. We prepare for the worst, the unexpected but when you’re never in that position you never know how you’ll react. You feel the confidence level go up when you have a team of medical professions there with you.”
During the process of getting Mays stabilized, Lindsey couldn’t help but notice players and coaches from both Moeller and Centerville taking a knee.
“They were lifting Grant up in prayer,” Lindsey said. “That’s something that is very powerful.”
The Sycamore Township life squad arrived with six or seven minutes of being called, Lindsey said. That’s an extremely good response time, Lindsey noted.
But for Mays, it may not have been fast enough.
“If we didn’t have that AED on the sidelines or didn’t have the people in place or training on how to use that machine, it could have been a totally different outcome,” said Lindsey. “We were blessed and thankful for the outcome we had.”
When the life squad left Moeller and took Mays to the hospital, Lindsey said, “That’s when myself and the other medical staff that were there took a deep breath kind of all at the same time … did that really happen?”
Even after Mays left the field, the game did not continue. “To their credit, they did the right thing by cancelling the game,” said Lindsey. “It was a very stressful, emotional time for all parties. What those student-athletes witnessed that afternoon, most adults don’t ever see. That’s a lot for 16-, 17-, 18-year-old student-athletes to register.”
Lindsey went to Bethesda North Hospital to check on Mays. Standing in a small lobby area off the main lobby, Lindsey said he was approached by a young girl. It turned out to be Mays’ sister.
“She says to me ‘Are you the trainer?’” Lindsey recalled. “I said yes and she said, ‘Can I hug you? You just saved my brother’s life.’”
“We’re hugging and both of us are crying our eyes out. That’s a time, an image and a feeling I hope I hold on to for a long time. It was absolutely the most defining moment.”