Boy Loses Heart Beat, Survives After Hit by Pitch
COLUMBIA, S.C. – Tad Buff anticipated the ping of ball against metal bat when his 11-year-old son Andy squared to bunt.
Instead, he heard something else: "A God-awful sound, a loud thud that I'll remember the rest of my life," he said Friday, about a week after Andy nearly lost his life when he was hit by a pitch flush in the chest. Andy lost consciousness, and a pulse.
However, quick work from two medical professionals who had sons playing in the Greenville County tournament last Saturday revived Andy — saving him from an injury many young people don't survive.
A 2005 article by two University of Maryland Sports Medicine researchers detail the condition, commotio cordis. It is defined as involving "sudden cardiac death after a chest blow without physical damage to the heart."
Dr. Michael A. Yorio and Dr. Tom Maino wrote that the blunt trauma to the chest, which can be caused by a baseball or a lacrosse ball, is transmitted to the heart. If it occurs at the wrong time during a heartbeat, it disrupts the organ's electrical system and triggers a change from a normal rhythm to a fatal arrhythmia.
That Andy didn't succumb can only be explained one way, said his mother, Vicky.
"It was a miracle. Right people, right place all there for Andy."
Like many families, the Buffs split athletic duties last weekend — Tad was at Andy's Carolina Buccaneers game, while Vicky went with their teen daughters to a softball outing about an hour away.
Tad watched with horror as the scene unfolded.
Andy went to his knees near home plate before hitting the ground. Greenville Hospital System trauma nurse Lorie Dalpiaz was quickly beside Andy, administering care. People called out for a doctor and Patrick Lollis, part of the Family Practice Associates and an assistant coach for another team, responded. Within moments, Andy didn't have a heartbeat.
"Your whole world's coming to an end as you're watching this," Andy's father said.
Players and coaches from other teams gathered to pray as silence swept over the complex, his parents said.
Lollis started CPR. He thought, "Lord, surely this isn't happening."
But on Lollis' third try at the life-saving technique, the father saw a reaction in his son's eyes and slight movement in his arm. Moments later, Andy screamed out, "Dad," as he came to and then "something about missing a ball," the father recalled, chuckling. "We just kind of held him there and gave him some room to breathe."
Andy was taken by ambulance to Greenville Memorial Hospital. After two days in intensive care, he came home. Now, he can't wait to get back to pitching and playing second base.
When he does, he'll bat with a chest protector, his parents said.
Doctors have told the Buffs that Andy needs about two months of limited activity to prevent further trauma to the chest, but that he can expect a complete recovery.
Lollis, who once revived a man without a pulse at a Clemson football game, hopes people take away the importance of CPR training from Andy's story .
The Buff family visited Lollis' practice Monday evening to express their thanks. "You couldn't imagine the emotion at that moment," Lollis said.
The sixth-grader missed just one day at Wren Middle School. His parents said teachers and administrators there will take precautions to protect Andy from accidental elbows or playful shoves.
The youngster only remembers getting hit and the stretcher to the ambulance. Other than that, he's as happy and hyper as any 11-year-old.
His father figures there were several hundred people who witnessed the accident and might have a hard time forgetting what they saw.
"I understand there are some having sleepless nights," he said. "At least when I have my moments, at least I can go in there and see him."