September 14, 2011 could have been the worst day of Harrison Malec’s life.
It turned out to be his luckiest.
After school, the Staples freshman went early to the Saugatuck Rowing Club to run 10 kilometers. He posted an inspirational message on the team whiteboard, then ran over the bridge and on to Baker Avenue for hill sprints.
That’s the last thing he remembers about the day.
Running up the hill, his heart stopped. Sudden cardiac arrest is extremely rare in adolescents. Few survive.
When Harrison collapsed, his teammates carried him to his coach. The coach immediately called 911.
A teammate — remembering lifeguard training — started CPR. Westport EMTs arrived less than 5 minutes later, and quickly applied an AED. An electronic shock restarted Harrison’s heart.
He was stabilized at Norwalk Hospital, then airlifted to Yale New Haven‘s pediatric intensive care unit.
A rare congenital defect was diagnosed. Two weeks later, open heart surgery corrected the defect.
Within 4 months, Harrison was back training with his team. Last week he competed at the Northeast Regionals.
On Tuesday, Harrison took time out from training and schoolwork to make a presentation. He joined William Raveis employees — where his mother, Joelle Harris Malec, works — to donate funds to Westport’s Volunteer Emergency Medical Service. The gift — in gratitude for the CPR and AED instruction provided to members of Raveis’ Westport office in June — were used to purchase 8 training dummies.
This was not the 1st “Harrison’s Heart” event. In March, 70 of his junior rowing teammates were trained in CPR. $1,000 in donations were raised.
Harrison described all this on Tuesday, at the Raveis presentation.
And he added a PS: The inspirational message he’d written on the whiteboard the day he collapsed was, “Rowers don’t stop until they end up in the hospital.”
Eerie. But lucky. He noted, “I celebrated my 15th birthday in June. And, hopefully, many more.”
With many more years of paying CPR and AED training forward.