Teen Back After Heart Stops During Baseball Practice

4:47 PM, Aug 3, 2012   |    comments
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Prior Lake, MN-- Doctors at Children's Hospital Minneapolis are amazed a Twin Cities teenager is alive after life threw him a cruel curve ball.

Andy Walerius, 15, of Prior Lake, collapsed during baseball practice. Within less than a day, his heart would stop.

Now, he's getting used to a major league welcome home, applauded back on the baseball field as a standout survivor.

"I don't remember any of the scary stuff," said Walerius. "It seemed like it happened to someone else."

In early May, his dad was coaching the team's usual baseball practice when he noticed Andy had trouble breathing, which had been happening periodically over the past few months.

"After three or four pitches, he just stood up, then went flat on his face," said Ken Walerius.

An ambulance rushed Andy to Children's Hospital in Minneapolis, and in the emergency room, Dr. Stephen Kurachek, a pediatric critical care specialist at Children's Hospitals and Clinics, soon found something he only sees once or twice in a decade.

"A clot in the lungs in a normal child is very uncommon, rare. A sweet 15-year-old collapses on the field? C'mon." said Kurachek.

He says Walerius' lungs were filled with blood clots, with the stress to his heart deadly. In only hours, the boy crouched on the baseball field hit code blue, when he was taken over to Abbott Northwestern hospital for a procedure to dissolve his clots.

"I was sitting there thinking, I wanted more than 15 years with him. How could this be?" said Joan Walerius, Andy's mother.

His parents were not supposed to be on these sidelines. They waited, as Kurachek tried to revive their son's heart for 10 long minutes, and remarkably, Walerius made his comeback.

"As I told one of my colleagues, this is why we go to church. This is why we pray. I didn't think this would happen for him. A straight 'A' student, good athlete, friendly, truth be told, he's the type of guy you say in the back of your mind, I wonder where he is going to be in 10-20 years? He's special." said Kurachek.

Walerius endured a ventilator, heart bypass machine, and three weeks in the hospital, but considers his greatest victory keeping up his grades - a 4.1 GPA - while getting back to the field. Kurachek believes the fact Walerius is an athlete helped him survive, with a heart strong enough to endure his condition.

The Children's medical team caring for Walerius still doesn't know what caused the blood clots in his lungs, but think it could have been connected to a virus.

"It's something you never dream you would experience especially since your child is so healthy. Really, I think he's a miracle. You have to have faith," said Joan Walerius.

"Basically, he was on the verge of heart failure, lung failure, kidney failure, was very close to having all three. Had we not taken to him to Children's, he wouldn't have made it," said Ken Walerius. "Now, he is where I think every parent wants their child to be, safe at home."

Safe, in his new position on first base, knowing no matter what the score, he's already won.



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