Medical professionals are still unable to specifically identify what caused a healthy teenager with no history of heart issues to suffer sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) during a tennis practice over the summer, his family says.
Drew Strasser, 18, collapsed during an early morning tennis practice in August when his heart suddenly stopped beating. Likely saving the teen’s life, a teammate named Jake quickly stepped in to perform CPR and the boys’ coach, Jesse Atkinson, grabbed an automated external defibrillator (AED) to jolt Strasser’s heart.
“His diagnosis is what’s referred to as idiopathic ventricular fibrillation, which basically means we don’t have another diagnosis,” Dr. Adam Kean told TODAY. Kean treated Strasser at Riley Hospital for Children after the collapse.
Two-thirds of the deaths caused by SCA in minors occur during exercise or activity, accounting for 75% of all athlete-related deaths, according to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
“Although SCA is rare in children, it can affect anyone, even those who are physically fit,” the hospital noted. “Each year, SCA claims the lives of over 2,000 children and adolescents in the U.S. and accounts for approximately 3-5 percent of all deaths in children aged 5-19 years. It is also responsible for 10-15 percent of sudden unexpected infant deaths.”
Strasser’s parents were completely shocked by the incident since their son never had any issues with his health and received a clean bill of health from a physical just weeks before the event, the report noted.
“I never would have thought it would be my kid,” mother Laneia Strasser said, adding, “We were just shocked. It didn’t seem real. He’s never had any passing-out moments before. He’s never had any signs of heart issues. It just completely came out of the blue.”
Laneia said she was told her son suffered “sudden cardiac arrest,” not a heart attack. “It was very traumatic. Scary, scary, scary morning,” she said.
“I didn’t believe what was going on because I hadn’t thought anything was wrong before, and I’ve never had anything like this happen at all,” Strasser told TODAY. “It’s scary and confusing.”
The athlete had to get an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) to protect against any future incidents.
“If there is a reversible cause or something that we can treat, we do not need the ICD,” Dr. Kean explained. “His diagnosis is what’s referred to as idiopathic ventricular fibrillation, which basically means we don’t have another diagnosis.”
“It would be good if there was obviously (a diagnosis of) his heart condition,” said Andy Strasser, the teen’s father. “We still have no idea what caused his cardiac arrest. It would be good (to learn) more about what causes kids to have cardiac arrest.”