A 12-year-old New Jersey boy died after collapsing at football practice on Feb. 10. His parents demanded answers once learning not one adult present performed CPR.
NBC New York reported that Elijah Jordon Brown-Garcia and the rest of the Rise Academy Charter School youth football team (the Essex County Predators) were at practice running drills at West Side Park. Elijah had brought his 10-year-old brother, Mekhi Stradford, with him.
Mekhi said his brother ran approximately 20 yards before taking a break.
“I don’t think he took enough time,” Mekhi said, adding that his brother wasn’t tackled or hit.
Elijah unexpectedly collapsed, and a parent dialed 911 while Mekhi called his mom. Amid efforts to get emergency personnel to arrive, no one performed CPR. And it’s unclear if the dispatcher didn’t provide instructions for lifesaving procedures like chest compressions.
The team’s coach wasn’t there for a while because he had an errand.
Raven Brown, Mekhi’s mother, rushed to get her other children, who were with her, dressed.
“I have three other kids, and I had to get them dressed and ready, and I got there, and the ambulance still wasn’t there, and I called when I got there. They were literally on their way,” Brown said.
It took an ambulance more than 30 minutes to arrive on the scene despite the Newark Police-Internal Affairs building being only 75 feet (a one-minute drive) from the park, which another parent could’ve walked to but didn’t.
If a parent ran to the nearby police precinct or the parent on the phone received CPR instructions from the dispatcher, the sixth grader may have survived.
“You have adults that are supposed to be in charge of our kids, and they don’t have the bare minimum when it comes to CPR or being able to realize what is an emergency and what’s not,” Sable Shelton, Elijah’s aunt, said.
“It’s unbearable how much love I’m getting for my baby. He didn’t deserve this, he was a good kid. He had so much further to go, he had so much more time, he was supposed to be here,” Brown said.
She also said that the team’s coach reached out and told her that “none of us are CPR certified” and assured her that he would make sure “all of us become CPR certified.”
Coaches or sports team staff aren’t required by law to be CPR certified. However, under Janet’s Law, private and public schools must have an AED available in an unrestricted location on the property with an identifying sign. Former governor Chris Christie signed the bill but excluded private camps and youth sports.
Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin experienced something similar when he collapsed on the field, going into cardiac arrest, in January, and survived. Hamilin’s incident recently underlined severe cardiac injuries in healthy athletes, highlighting the importance of knowing CPR.
Hamlin tweeted about Elijah’s death and said he’d ensure more people knew how to perform CPR.
Thinking of Elijah Jordon Brown-Garcia today. Prayers out to his parents & family. I’m making it my mission to make sure everyone knows CPR. 🙏🏾 pic.twitter.com/o9pvgxCpr9
— 𝐃𝐚𝐦𝐚𝐫 𝐇𝐚𝐦𝐥𝐢𝐧 (@HamlinIsland) February 18, 2023
There are courses available to take to become CPR certified. The American Heart Association’s website helps find CPR courses nearby.