A 14-year-old boy running a 5K in Florida collapsed and died after suffering cardiac arrest on Nov. 4, according to NBC 6 South Florida. Police said in a statement that they found the teen experiencing cardiac arrest when they arrived at the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) 5K at Everglades High School in Miramar, Florida.
After the teen arrived at Memorial Miramar Hospital, doctors pronounced him dead. Police haven’t publicly identified the student.
However, according to a GoFundMe, the student was Knox MacEwen, who participated in the JROTC program at Western High School in Davie, Florida, and volunteered at his church in the kids’ ministry. His mother, Julie, recently had cancer, and the family is still grappling with the lingering physical and financial effects of her illness, the GoFundMe said.
“The family has been through the unimaginable,” the GoFundMe said, adding the funds raised will “allow Knox’s parents, Kevin and Julie, to take time off work to grieve.”
Western High School announced that grief counselors would be available for students in need of support.
“I am saddened to share tragic news impacting our Wildcat community. One of our JROTC students passed away this morning after being transported to the hospital. I want to offer my deepest condolences to his family and loved ones, teachers, and classmates as they mourn this great loss,” Jimmy Arrojo, principal of Western High School, said in a statement obtained by TODAY.com. “I ask our Wildcat community to rally around the family in prayer and support during this time of deep sorrow.”
What is cardiac arrest?
Cardiac arrest occurs when a person’s heart stops beating. It happens in young people more often than you may realize, with one child experiencing cardiac arrest every hour, TODAY.com previously reported. According to the Mayo Clinic, cardiac arrest remains the leading cause of death in young athletes.
While this sounds alarming, experts estimate that sudden cardiac death occurs in about 200 children annually, according to Dr. Meghan E. Tozzi, pediatric cardiologist at Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital at Hackensack University Medical Center.
“When it comes to frequency, (cardiac arrest) is not very frequent,” Tozzi told TODAY.com in July 2023. “When it does happen, it’s devastating, especially when there’s something we could’ve done to prevent it.”
In many cases, high quality CPR and use of an automated external defibrillator make a huge difference in the recovery of a child or teen experiencing cardiac arrest.
“They can save lives,” Dr. Wayne Franklin, division chief of cardiology and co-director of the Phoenix Children’s Center for Heart Care, previously told TODAY.com. “There’s some kids that are going undiagnosed (with heart conditions), but we can clearly treat them and prevent them from dying with AEDs.”
Symptoms of cardiac arrest in children and teens
Few young people at risk for cardiac arrest display any symptoms before experiencing it.
“This is the awful reality,” Dr. Adam Kean, a pediatric cardiologist at Riley Children’s Health in Indianapolis, previously told TODAY.com. “Those who do will often describe … not necessarily feeling like they’re able to participate to their peak performance and they’re just feeling a little bit off.”
Some people experience signs prior to cardiac arrest, and they include:
- Chest pain
- Racing heartbeat
These symptoms don’t always indicate cardiac arrest. But Kean said that parents should take children with these symptoms to a cardiologist to rule out any underlying conditions that could contribute to cardiac arrest.
“The real tragedy of it is, aside from those who are already diagnosed with (a heart condition), we can’t predict when the terrible event is going to happen,” he said.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people experiencing cardiac arrest might:
- Faint or pass out
- Struggle to breathe
- Be unresponsive
- Have no pulse