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Teen Leaves Children's Hospital After Collapsing During West Allis Game

A Dane County student whose heart suddenly stopped during a basketball game at West Allis Central High School was given a special send off at Children’s Hospital.

Michael Saxby, 16, had an undiagnosed heart condition and it was the speedy response of others that saved his life.

"I’m just thankful for everything that happened and the way it happened,” Michael Saxby said. “It just feels good to be out."

His parents are grateful. His mother Molly Saxby is surprised at the outpour of support.

"It would have happened anywhere. It could’ve happened at home, it could’ve happened at practice but the fact it happened with the trainer right there and the paramedics around the corner, it would have been a completely different story," Molly Saxby said.  

Michael, who was a visiting player from Waunakee High school collapsed on the court during the game on December 27th.

Scott Barthlama was the athletic trainer that day and he said he analyzed the situation and took a plan of action. He performed CPR and grabbed a defibrillator the school has in case of an emergency.

"My job in that situation is to remain calm when nobody else is calm,” Barthlama said. “I just remember telling his dad, that he was going to be ok and telling Michael he was going to be ok."

However, he didn’t have to use the school’s defibrillator because the paramedics arrived in time to use their own equipment.

Michael was diagnosed hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM).  It is a common cause of sudden cardiac arrest in young people, including young athletes, according to the American Heart Association.

"It's something that's genetics,” said Dr. Joshua Kovach, cardiologist at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin. “It's something that he was born with and something that he'll always have and something that we screen for as best as we can but often times this is the first way we find out that somebody has it unfortunately."

Michael won’t be able to play sports anymore. However, he said he’ll still be part of the team.

"I’m just going to look at it differently and be thankful for what I have, just be happy I’m alive," Michael said.

West Allis Central High School has defibrillators thanks to a Children's Hospital program in case of an emergency. The hospital has partnered with the school district since 1999. 

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