Teen whose heart stopped on HS baseball field returns to his team

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LOVELAND, Colo. -- A 14-year-old whose heart stopped on the baseball field, and whose coaches jumped in to save him, returns to the practice field Friday where he nearly lost his life.

It’s been just 12 days since Tommy Lucero had open heart surgery. But he was really anxious to get back to the baseball field with his teammates at Thompson Valley High School in Loveland.

The group practices their baseball skills: batting, running and pitching.

But it was a life-saving skill that saved their freshman teammate.

“I am very excited to see what he looks like. I can’t wait to have him back out here,” says one of Lucero’s coaches, Jay Denning.

On March 5, Lucero’s heart stopped on the practice field.

His two coaches teamed up to call 911 and perform CPR until paramedics got there about five minutes later. He was then airlifted to Children’s Hospital in Aurora.

“I try not to think about that,” says Denning, about what could have happened had he and coach Chad Raabe not known CPR. “I’m just thankful for the outcome we had.”

It’s an outcome that brings Tommy back for the first time to the field where he could have taken his last breath.

“Feels great. It’s a lot better than a hospital bed,” says Tommy, about being back at practice.

He returns to hugs and friends happy to see him win this battle against an undetected heart problem.

And he’s got the scar to prove it. He lifts up his shirt to show the nearly 12-inch scar down his chest.

His healing heart will keep him off the field until June. So until then, he’ll be a spectator. “Keeping the books,” he says.

But to many, he’s much more than that.

Inside the school library, kids aren’t loading up the bases, but on pizza.

And Tommy fills up with gratitude toward the EMTs who helped him that day.

“This is a great day to celebrate living, right?” Denning tells the crowd who came together to see Tommy.

Louisville Slugger, the baseball bat maker, honors Tommy and his two coaches with engraved baseball bats to celebrate a day they could have been grieving.

“That moment goes through my head every day, probably will for the rest of my life, that I died out there on the baseball field for 6 minutes, and my couches and EMTs saved my life,” says Tommy.

“I’m just glad that it worked. You now, it feels great that I had a part in him being here. Feels great. That’s the main thing--that he’s here,” says Raabe.

Denning says this experience has made it his mission to convince other coaches the importance of knowing CPR because you never know when you’re going to need it to save one of your students.

“They’re supposedly young, healthy people who pass physicals. I try to make a point in my First Aid class that you don’t really know what is lying beneath and what is waiting to happen,” says Denning.

Tommy returns to class on Monday.


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