'Hero' coach: Watching player collapse was surreal

2013-05-18T00:01:56Z 'Hero' coach: Watching player collapse was surrealJared Lloyd - Daily Herald Daily Herald
May 18, 2013 12:01 am  • 

OREM -- Orem football coach Tyler Anderson didn't get much sleep Thursday night -- and isn't expecting to get much more for the next few days.

His thoughts keep going to Tiger sophomore Ben Smith, who collapsed during a conditioning drill Thursday evening. Anderson and assistant coach Ward Wright immediately administered CPR until Orem paramedics, called by assistant coach Randy Lamoreaux, arrived on the scene.

"It was one of those things that you never want to happen as a head coach but I'm glad I was prepared and glad that we are required to have that CPR training," Anderson said Friday. "I was able to take action and I'm glad it turned out the way that it did. When you are doing CPR, you never know. There are always those thoughts that it could be the worst."

Smith's heart started beating on its own on the way to Utah Valley Regional Medical Center, but the doctor discovered Smith had a heart condition.

"The doctor said it was something he wouldn't have been able to detect," Anderson said. "There are no symptoms. The only way he would've known would've been if he'd had an EKG. He's a 16-year-old kid who was probably one of the most in-shape kids on our team. It was definitely very scary, one of those nightmare things that you hope you are never involved in, but you are glad you are prepared when it does."

Doctors decided to place Smith in a medically induced coma. The plan is to have him slowly be brought back to consciousness Friday evening.

"I'm so glad that everything looks good for him right now," Anderson said. "I'm grateful I had other coaches helping. It was definitely a team effort."

Orem principal Mike Browning credited the work of Anderson, Wright, Lamoreaux and the football coaching staff for saving Smith's life.

"They worked well as a team and miraculously were able to save the boy," the Orem principal said. "They are great men who did a great service for us."

Browning said the doctors anticipate that Smith will fully recover.

Alpine School District spokesperson Rhonda Bromley said students and members of the community heard about what had happened and went to the hospital to support Smith.

Displays of support continued at the school on Friday as some students dressed up to go to their classes.

"Ben has a brother, Jeremiah, a junior, who came to the school and put posters around," Bromley said. "The students could sign them and then Jeremiah was going take the posters to the hospital so when Ben wakes up, he can see the love and support."

Browning said this would be a traumatic event for any school but that the coaches and the paramedics were the "heroes of the day."

"The family is grateful for the response of the coaches and the Orem paramedics," Browning said. "We're feeling pretty lucky right now. This is why the coaches have taken the training and have their certification. It's nice to know that they were ready when it really counts."

Anderson said there was no warning at all before the crisis.

"We had just gotten done with doing some sprint drills and started conditioning," the Tiger coach recalled. "We'd run a wind sprint and Smith was walking back to the line. He went down to his knees and then he passed out. I went over and he came to. He sat up and was breathing fine."

Anderson said he thought it might be related to dehydration or lack of food, so he asked Smith if he'd eaten lunch and got a positive response.

"He was talking fine, so I told him I'd go grab him a drink," Anderson said. "I went and got a Gatorade. He took a drink but a few seconds later he started gasping again and passed out again. His eyes kind of rolled back and he started to turn purple. He was still gasping, but we couldn't find a pulse, so I told one of the coaches to call 911."

Anderson and Wright worked together to begin CPR. After a moment of panic, Anderson said the training kicked in.

"You're like, 'is it 15 compressions?' " Anderson recalled. "But once you start, adrenaline takes over. You are there just hoping for the best. It's definitely kind of a surreal situation. I'm sure it will be with me for the rest of my life. It's definitely a life-changing experience."

Anderson and Browning both credited the quick response of Orem paramedics as vital to Smith's survival. Anderson followed the ambulance to the hospital.

"It was definitely a relief when I got to the hospital and they said that they had got his heart beating and that he was breathing on his own again," Anderson said. "When he had left, they didn't have a pulse still and his heart wasn't beating. It was something that when I left, I didn't know. You're expecting the worst and hoping for the best. I was very relieved when I got down there."

It was an emotional time for the Smith family including Jeremiah, who had been at practice and seen the whole episode.

"They are grateful that we were there and started CPR, that we acted," Anderson said. "They were very appreciative. I'm sure his older brother was freaked out about the whole situation. It's a great thing that it turned out the way it has."

Bromley said the district requires coaches to be certified in first aid and CPR.

"It's for this very purpose," Bromley said. "They are out with the athletes where it can be hot or there can be pre-existing conditions. They have that training and it paid off in this case. This is evidence of why we do require this. Hopefully other coaches will see it and say this is why, even though we hope no one has to do this."

While the school, the district and the family certainly regard the Tiger coaching staff as heroes for their quick actions, Anderson shrugged off the title.

"I just feel like we did our jobs," he said. "As coaches you are trained to be able to handle situations like that. You never want to, but I feel like we were there, we did our job for kids that we love. I'd hope that any coach in that situation would do the same thing."

Bromley said the Smith family was not speaking to the media at this time but, they wanted to "express appreciation to the coaches and to the community."

Daily Herald sports editor Jared Lloyd can be reached at 801-344-2555 or jlloyd@heraldextra.com.

He can also be followed on Twitter at @JaredrLloyd.

-- Daily Herald sports editor Jared Lloyd is also the beat writer for the BYU football team, the columnist for the Cougar men’s basketball team and covers a variety of Utah Valley high school athletics. He can be followed on Twitter at @JaredrLloyd.
Read more from Jared Lloyd here.

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