Heart Scare Changes Soccer Star’s Life

Christian Lerma’s playing days are likely done. (Courtesy Go Fund Me)

Out of nowhere, Jesuit soccer player Christian Lerma started feeling dizzy.

On the field in a district soccer match against Richardson J.J. Pearce, Lerma turned to teammates, mentioned his discomfort, and sat down. Soon his breathing began to labor, and he became unresponsive.

The Mayo Clinic identifies cardiac arrest as the leading cause of death in young athletes, but thanks to an athletic trainer with an automated external defibrillator (AED), Lerma’s collapse wouldn’t turn out that tragic.

“It seemed like the whole thing took an eternity,” said Pearce athletic trainer Tara Grubbs, who administered the AED. “I don’t know how many rounds of CPR I did before the ambulance arrived.”

Grubbs administered two shocks to Lerma’s chest and with the help of volunteers who were at the game – some with medical experience – she was able to get him into an ambulance and to the hospital.

The University Interscholastic League passed a rule change in 2007 requiring that at least one AED must be on each UIL member high school campus. Grubbs has been training teachers and coaches in CPR and AED-use in Richardson ISD for 11 years, she said – and not just at the high school level.

Tara Grubbs holds an automated external defibrillator. (Photo: Tim Glaze)

“I’ve always been responsible for teaching [how to use the AED and how to administer CPR] to the other coaches and trainers throughout the district, so we do it all the time,” she said. “But that was my first time on an actual human, and I hope I don’t ever have to do it again.”

Grubbs said there are four AED’s at Pearce alone, and there is always one available at home games – regardless of sport. In her 11 years, Grubbs said district staff have used an AED on three Richardson ISD students.

“There could have been three less students at our school if we didn’t have access [to an AED],” she said. “They are certainly emphasized at Richardson.”

Rick Martin, Jesuit’s head trainer, said there are 12 AED’s available throughout the Dallas high school. Like Pearce, Jesuit’s trainers always have an AED present at home sporting events.

The Dallas Independent School District has more than 600 AED units throughout its campuses, district officials said.

Lerma’s family has started a GoFundMe page to help pay for the junior’s medical bills following his cardiac arrest and surgery to put a stint in his heart.

“[Christian] will no longer be able to participate in competitive sports, but he has a bright future before him, and it has made us all take a moment and be grateful for what we have before us,” his family wrote on the GoFundMe page. “This new journey will include a permanent lifestyle change for Christian, as he will need treatment for his heart condition for the rest of his life.”

Grubbs, who has received plenty of attention since the incident, said she was simply doing her job, and that the health of Lerma is “what people should really be focusing on.”

“I’ll give a hundred interviews if it gets the word out about the importance of AED’s,” she said.