Doctor, school officials save teen who suffered heart attack during scrimmage

Da’Marion Hicks has a message for the doctor who came out of the grandstands to save his life.

“God bless the doctor,” Hicks said. “It’s because of him that I have been able to live another day.”

Hicks, a rising junior, was playing basketball with his Potterville High School teammates in a series of scrimmages at Hastings High School the night of June 14. Hicks returned to the bench during his team’s second game of the evening when he suddenly collapsed.

“The next thing I remember was waking up in the ambulance,” Hicks said. “I said how did I get here?”

Hicks eventually learned about the heroic efforts that enabled him to survive a heart attack. Hicks has since had open heart surgery at the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids and is now recovering at home.

Potterville opened with a scrimmage against reigning Division 4 state champion Tri-unity Christian before both squads shook hands and headed to different courts for their next game. Luke Van Klompenberg, who is an emergency physician at Holland Hospital, was in the stands watching his son, Tri-unity junior Jordan Van Klompenberg.

Van Klompenberg headed down to the court after Hicks collapsed.

“I didn’t notice any commotion on the court on the other side where the other teams were playing,” Van Klompenberg said. “But the assistant coach at Tri-unity Brent Voorhees walked up to me and said there is a kid who went down on the other court and was wondering if we could take a look at him. I didn’t think too much of it because most of the time when young, healthy people pass out it’s not a huge thing.

“He was laying on the ground with his feet up on the bench. I pulled up to him and saw him lying there and was unresponsive. He didn’t look in great distress. I knelt down next to him, and he wouldn’t respond to voice. I opened his eyes to look at him and he was just staring off. He kind of let out a weird gasping breath, and at that moment, I knew something was more seriously wrong because when people typically pass out their breathing isn’t drastically affected. Once he did that, I stepped into it a little more. I couldn’t feel a pulse.”

It is believed that HIcks’ heart attack was caused by a birth defect at the top of a pulmonary valve. Fortunately, Hastings school officials were prepared for the emergency and acted quickly. Hastings athletic director Rich Long sprung into action, bringing one of the school’s automated external defibrillators (AED) to Van Klompenberg.

“Another young man had started chest compressions,” Van Klompenberg said. “(Hicks) did receive a defibrillation from the AED. It was still hard to believe that there was something seriously wrong with him because 10 minutes previously he was guarding my son. They had been matched up for a lot of the game. We continued chest compressions and he never did have good spontaneous pulses and breathing until just before the paramedics were rolling in.

“I guess he was down for seven, eight minutes total. As the paramedics came in, he started to blink, breathe well on his own and look around and try to roll over. That was pretty reassuring. They took him over to Pennock Hospital which is close to the high school.”

Potterville is hosting a fundraiser, Taco Night & Bake Sale Wednesday in the high school’s cafeteria. The dinner is $10 for adults and $6 per child, and all proceeds will benefit Hicks and his family from him.

Hicks had never shown any signs of a heart issue. He participated in track this spring and finished 12th in the 400-meter dash in the June 4 Division 3 state championship meet.

“It happened as they always do – really fast,” Long said. “Fortunately, we had multiple people who took action, and we were able to get help to him as quickly as we could.

“We have multiple AEDs on sight in the gym located in every direction possible. It is one of those things where our school provides us with CRP training. When you sit in those trainings you don’t ever think you are going to need it. You are almost annoyed that you have to do it. But man, did it ever pay dividends of unbelievable proportions to save a young man’s life. It would have been very tragic.”

Hicks’ parents were not in attendance for the scrimmages. But his brother, Christopher Hicks, who will be a senior at Potterville, was playing when Hicks collapsed. Christopher got word to the family what happened.

“The surgeon came in and said do you know about athletes who suddenly die?” Hicks’ mother, LaShaun Smith said. “He said that’s basically what happened with Da’Marion’s situation. But he had people there who saved his life from him and a machine there that saved his life from him.

“I want my kids and their teammates, the coaches and the cheerleaders to learn how to give CPR and use a defibrillator. Other than that, what would be the point of having a defibrillator?”

Hicks said he is determined to return to the basketball court next year.

“It is my last chance to play with my brother and his friends,” Hicks said. “The doctor said I should be clear for the fall.

“I’m feeling good, and I feel myself improving every day.”

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