Thu Apr 22 2021 | Justin Feil
A sigh of relief broke out from the group of emergency professionals attending to Peter Laake when the Loyola Blakefield freshman defender opened his eyes.
Laake suffered commotio cordis after being hit by a shot in the first quarter against McDonogh in a Baltimore-area high school boys’ lacrosse game last Friday. Commotio cordis causes sudden cardiac arrest in an otherwise healthy heart after a blow to the chest area. It is fatal 75 percent of the time, according to the US Commotio Cordis Registry, and the eerie hush at Loyola’s Hargaden Field exposed everyone’s worst fears — until their prayers were answered.
“It’s a whole lot easier to move forward knowing he’s alive,” Loyola athletic trainer Jeremy Parr said. “It’s a good story instead of a tragedy.”
Laake was revived thanks to the readily available automated external defibrillator (AED) carried by Parr, the swift and well-orchestrated response and the help of an absolute dream team of trainers, nurses and doctors on site to administer emergency care.
“With any potentially tragic circumstances, the key is, you have to have the right personnel, the right equipment and a good emergency action plan to execute in any potential situation,” Parr said. “This is a terrible tragedy that could have happened that was avoided because we had trained medical professionals on site, we had the absolutely correct equipment that needed to be there and needed to be accessible in immediate fashion and we had an action plan that worked with who we had there and with great help from other medical professionals that were on scene and wanted to lend their helping hands.”
If any of those critical pieces — most importantly the AED, in Laake’s case — had not been in place, the outcome could have been different. Someone suffering commotio cordis must have their heart shocked back into rhythm.
“There can be lots of other causes of cardiac arrest, but with this one, you absolutely have to have the AED and someone who’s willing or trained to enact that plan,” Parr said of the dangers of commotio cordis. “By the time the EMS and the AED they have gets there, unfortunately, it’s usually too late.”