Matt’s story
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A poolside crisis with a very happy ending

Quick actions with an AED save a young athlete

Matt McKenna was an athletic 15 year old. He had just returned from an intensive lacrosse summer camp and was doing flips off a diving board when his mother, Wendy, noticed something was wrong.

Matt was on his knees, doubled over with his head almost touching the ground. When Wendy ran over to him and started shaking him, he didn’t respond. He was blue because he wasn’t getting any oxygen.

Matt was in sudden cardiac arrest (SCA).


SCA can happen at any age


SCA is an electrical malfunction of the heart and it can happen at any age. The electrical impulses to the heart become chaotic and the heart no longer pumps blood. Like Matt, typical victims collapse and quickly lose consciousness. They must have their heart rhythm restored immediately or they will die.


And the only way to restore heart rhythm is with a shock from a defibrillator.


A lifeguard saves Matt


When Wendy started calling for help, the pool manager called for a lifeguard to bring a defibrillator. Mike Mierzwa, one of the lifeguards on duty, sprang into action. He ran for the defibrillator and brought it back toward the growing crowd of people.


Although Mike had recently been trained on how to use an AED, he was not a medical professional. Kneeling beside Matt, Mike opened the Philips HeartStart Automated External Defibrillator (AED), and began following the defibrillator’s voice instructions. He placed the pads on Matt’s chest and waited while the machine analyzed his heart rhythm. The HeartStart detected ventricular defibrillation, the abnormal heart rhythm caused by SCA. It advised giving a shock.


Mike pushed a button and delivered a shock to Matt’s heart. The AED analyzed Matt’s heart again but this time it registered a normal rhythm. Matt’s heart was beating again.


Even though his heart was beating, Matt still wasn’t breathing. Mike continued rescue breaths until the ambulance arrived.


Today, Matt is back to his normal activities thanks to Mike’s quick actions.

Matt McKenna survived SCA when a HeartStart AED restarted his heart.

Matt McKenna survived SCA when a HeartStart AED restarted his heart.

A day at the pool almost turns tragic


Most people don’t expect athletic 15 year olds to have cardiac issues. Quick thinking and recent training saved Matt’s life.

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