St. Joseph (FL) Senior Survives Life-Threatening Medical Condition On The Basketball Court

Megan Leitner was lying on the basketball court just a few feet away from her St. Joseph Academy teammates in early December. She was technically dead.
 
The St. Joseph senior collapsed while leaving the court headed to the bench. She said last week something felt different that day.
 
“She goes, ‘Coach, I’m just not feeling good today; you’re going to have to sub me more than normal,’” said St. Joseph coach Sherri Nowatzki last week when talking about the events of Dec. 2.
 
Megan’s collapse was caused by a congenital disease called sudden cardiac death. Until that evening, the only known health issue Megan had was asthma.
 
Thanks to quick thinking and an automated external defibrillator (AED) donated to the school by a local doctor, Megan survived.
 
Most schools have an AED accessible, but it is not required by the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA). In fact, the FHSAA has no guidelines or suggestions when it comes to having staff members trained in using AEDs.
 
Cardiologist Dr. Ferris George said a patient wouldn’t live through 95 percent of these scenarios if it weren’t for AEDs and having them accessible.
 
As a tribute to her recovery, the St. Joseph team members on Friday wore their green visiting jerseys for a home game against Ponte Vedra. The team honored Megan as she dressed for the final time in the away jersey because her home jersey was torn to shreds by paramedics on Dec. 2 in order to save her life.
 
Megan has a positive outlook.
 
“Everyone’s like, do you ever question why it happened?” Megan said. “Honestly, my thought of it is God does everything for a reason. Whether he did this to help someone else, or for me later on down the road. That’s kind of how I think of it.”
 
Training to save lives
 
For athletic trainer Katelyn Ostopick, the AED was a lifesaver.
 
“You’re technically dead before you hit the floor,” Ostopick said. “Every story I’ve ever read in the athletic training world, you read that nobody survives it (sudden cardiac death).”
 
Ostopick recounted the Dec. 2 incident where she worked to assess the situation and help save Megan’s life.
 
“I’m looking for a pulse in her neck and I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh, am I being stupid, where is it? I can’t feel it,’” Ostopick said. “I just wanted to throw up the whole time.”
 
The next step was to get the AED, and kick start Megan’s heart.
 
With the device, Megan’s shot at revival was 30 percent. Even if her heart began beating, the resulting brain damage couldn’t be predicted.
 
Megan was out for nearly two minutes.
 
“At that point, your heart looks like a bag of worms. As soon as that happens, all cardiac output to the brain and to the other organs shuts down,” George said.
 
There are screening techniques to identify athletes at risk. George said Megan passed all conventional screening techniques.
 
“It’s interesting how she played for four years at the high school level and not have this precipitate this kind of event before,” he said.
 
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