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CLOSE CALL: DeKalb boy's heart stops while swimming, rare heart defect diagnosed
by LaTria Garnigan
July 15, 2014 09:49 AM | 3749 views | 0 0 comments | 26 26 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Staff / Katherine Frye / After his heart stopped while he was swimming, Jackson Grier's family has worked to spread awareness about CPR training.
Staff / Katherine Frye / After his heart stopped while he was swimming, Jackson Grier's family has worked to spread awareness about CPR training.
Staff / Katherine Frye /
Adam and Julie Grier along with their children Lilly, 2, (center), Conner, 5, (left), and Jackson, 7, (right) work to raise awareness about the importance of CPR training.
Staff / Katherine Frye / Adam and Julie Grier along with their children Lilly, 2, (center), Conner, 5, (left), and Jackson, 7, (right) work to raise awareness about the importance of CPR training.
On May 15, Adam and Julie Grier experienced what most parents fear — their son Jackson was found with no heartbeat at the bottom a neighborhood pool. As his 5-year-old brother Connor later explained it, “Jackson was swimming. Then he died. Then he didn’t.”

Out with 7-year-old Jackson at the Nottaway Neighborhood Pool in Atlanta for a swimming lesson, Grier said he initially scanned the pool to see if his son had returned for the first lap with the other swimmers.

“I saw him get in the pool and turned around to see if he had made it and didn’t see him,” he said. “And I scanned the pool again and by that point I saw a lifeguard go into the pool and I knew it was probably Jackson.”

Jackson was lifeless, not breathing and with no heart rate, he said.

At that moment, Grier — who had been a lifeguard as a teen at that same pool and who had more than 20 years of CPR training — sprang into action along with the lifeguard and a nurse who also happened to be at the pool.

Meanwhile, on the other side of town Mrs. Grier was at work when that fateful phone call came into her cell phone.

“I was at my desk, it was like 4:30 p.m. or so … and he [Grier] said I needed to leave immediately,” said Mrs. Grier. “I asked if he [Jackson] was going to be okay. I had no idea the severity of it.”

Not satisfied with the answer, she said she called back as she was leaving the office and was told her son had no pulse.

Paramedics arrived to the pool within minutes and used an automatic external defibrillator to jumpstart the young boy’s heart rhythm and within minutes, Jackson was crying and breathing again.

Fast forward a week, and Jackson was returning home from his stay at Scottish Rite with a pre-diagnosis of Long QT Syndrome. His grandmother Elaine Harris, a registered nurse and clinical associate professor at Georgia Baptist College of Nursing at Mercer University, said the illness means there is a longer length of time during which the heart is electrically at rest. This causes electrical instability and potentially deadly heart rhythms to occur. CPR and prompt defibrillation must be performed or sudden cardiac death occurs.

Mrs. Grier explained there are three types of Long QT Syndrome: Type 1 is with swimming and running; Type 2 is with a scare or startle and Type 3 is while resting.

Jackson now takes a daily pill to regulate his heart rhythm and decrease the likelihood of another episode. His mother said he is very good about remembering to take it.

The family is waiting on results to come in from genetic testing to see if the syndrome was passed on to Jackson and the likelihood Connor or 2-year-old daughter Lilly might be susceptible to the same disorder.

Jackson has no recollection of the events of that afternoon, and while his parents have carefully explained to him what happened, Jackson is just eager to go on with his 7-year-old life as normal as possible.

“He couldn’t wait to get back in the pool,” said Mrs. Grier. “I think for him it wasn’t a struggle.”

For her husband, it has been difficult returning to the pool.

“The first few times were heart-wrenching, very difficult,” said Grier. “My eyes were on him all the time. But I think with anything it gets a little bit easier.

“It’s a day we’ll never forget and I don’t’ know when there will ever be a time when any of my kids are in the water where I will feel as comfortable as I did before this happened.”

The family is using their ordeal to educate the public on the benefits of having CPR training, as well as available AEDs at public pools, schools and even homes.

After the incident, Grier said the pool and a neighboring pool have purchased an AED, they have purchased one for their home and they are working on having one placed at Evansdale Elementary School, where Jackson attends.

Paramedic Andre’ “Skip” Kennebrew from American Medical Response was on the medical team on scene and said Jackson’s outcome was truly a miracle.

“When we got there Jackson looked dead, he was blue and it looked like all hope was lost,” he said. “But everybody was encouraging him like ‘Come on Jackson, you’re gonna be alright.’”

Kennebrew said it came down to everyone being encouraging, which made for a calm and reassuring environment.

“This is something I’ll never forget,” he said. “As long as I’m alive and don’t get dementia, I’ll never forget.

“When a kid crashes, that’s usually it. So to see him come back, it’s really a miracle and a job well done to everybody who participated in helping Jackson.”

Besides Kennebrew, there were Marion Brooks, Tracey Reid and the B shift of the DeKalb County Fire Station No. 19 who arrived on the scene to assist.

Kennebrew agreed upon the importance of CPR training and said that while many may never have to use it, if that opportunity does come it will be more important than anyone may ever know.

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