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It started out as just another typical summer day — morning practice for the Catholic High boys soccer team so the players could enjoy the rest of the day and avoid the oppressive South Louisiana summer heat.
Steven Champ had just returned from work and dropped off his son, also Steven, at practice and was headed home.
At practice, the younger Champ and the rest of the soccer team had done some warmups and were in the middle of a sprint drill when something went wrong.
“The players had just finished warming up and were doing some sprints,” CHS assistant soccer coach Michael Pope said. “They were on the third sprint. I was watching the other players and Coach Adam (CHS head boys soccer coach Adam Glover) grabbed my attention and that’s when I turned around and saw Steven on the ground.
“I knew then something serious had happened.”
Champ had collapsed and was convulsing and not breathing. Pope ran to him and started cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Glover called head football coach and athletic director Brent Indest, who called head athletic trainer Elizabeth “Biz” Thomason.
“It was a typical start of the week. Normal workouts had begun,” Thomason said. “We were just getting back into the swing of things and I was hanging out in the training room waiting to see if anyone needed me.
“Then I get a call from Coach Indest that I was needed urgently out in the front of school.”
Instincts kicking in, Thomason grabbed what she needed out of the training room, including Catholic High’s brand new Automated External Defibrilator (AED) and ran to where she was needed.
It would prove to be a fortuitous grab.
“I wasn’t gone five minutes when Coach Glover called me and told me to come back to the field,” said the elder Champ. “Coach Glover told me that Steven had collapsed and it looked like he was seizing and (asked) had this ever happened before. I told him no.”
At first, the elder Champ thought his son had a hamstring issue, because he’d had previous issues with hamstrings. When he got the news that his son had collapsed, his mindset immediately changed.
Back on the practice field, Pope had gone through two rounds of CPR when Thomason showed up with the AED.
By that time, Champ got back to the field and saw the CHS staff working on his son.
“I ran to the field and when I got there he had no pulse and wasn’t breathing,” Champ said. “I’m sitting there shouting at him in his ear. I looked out of the corner of my eye and saw Biz coming up with something over her shoulder. I didn’t know what it was at the time but I was in a panic.”
Thomason said it took her less than five minutes to get to where Champ was on the practice field with the AED, which was donated to Catholic High by Nativity of Our Lady Church four weeks ago and was moved into the trainer’s room at the field house two weeks later.
“We have one at the school and we moved this one into the trainer’s room so if we needed it, it would be closer to where the kids practice,” said Thomason, who quickly assessed the situation, removed Champ’s shirt and hooked up the AED.
“We set up the AED and I never thought I’d hear the words, ‘shock advised.’ So the shock was delivered and you could see the life go back into him.”
After the shock delivered by the AED, Pope continued CPR on the younger Champ and an ambulance showed up shortly after, with paramedics taking over resuscitation efforts.
Champ first went to Iberia Medical Center for a couple of hours, according to his father, then to Women’s and Children’s Hospital in Lafayette for a couple of days and finally Children’s Hospital in New Orleans, where they spent five days.
“They did a procedure on him and he was released from the hospital June 14,” said Champ.
According to his father, doctors still aren’t sure exactly what happened to the younger Champ on that June Moning. All that anyone knows for sure is that according to the AED, Champ had no cardio activity going on and was shocked to get his heart started.
The Catholic High sophomore athlete has been to New Orleans for doctor’s visits in the past month and has been undergoing genetic testing. The examining doctors believe that he has hypertrophic cardiomyopathy but that hasn’t been officially diagnosed.
He is expected to be sidelined for the next three to six months before he can start playing soccer again but he has told his father that he will play again.
“Since the incident, my son has been in real good spirits,” said the elder Champ. “It was actually his idea to put this message out because if he can save one life, it’s all worth it.”
Champ added that it is very important that parents convince the schools that having one or more AED’s on campus and having people that know how to use them in case another student, or athlete or parent has some type of similar medical emergency.
Thomason added that several times each year, Catholic High holds drills for just such an emergency.
The school has two AED’s already and plan to add two more and have them placed around campus so that one isn’t too far away if and when they are needed.
“Everything worked like it should have,” said Thomason. “All the protocols we have in place worked from the coaches and trainers knowing what to do.
“It can’t be emphasized enough just how important it is to have an AED available. Without it, this could have ended differently.”