We measure our lives in years and decades, but sometimes they hang on the slimmest of moments.
For 4-year-old Michael Lentell from Port Orchard, Washington, it only took a millisecond for his existence to shift from stable to hanging in the balance.
The first hint Michael’s parents had that something wasn’t right came during the afternoon of Nov. 26, 2017. The normally energetic young boy climbed into the arms of his father, Brion, and fell asleep until the early evening.
When Brion sent Michael running upstairs at 8 p.m., he stayed in the kitchen making coffee and listening for his son’s footfalls above him — footfalls which never came.
That lack of sound sent alarms jangling in the father’s head, and he followed after Michael only to find a scene straight out of a nightmare.
The 4-year-old lay sprawled at the top of the stairs, unconscious and turning gray. “Tried to wake him up, rouse him, not responding,” Brion explained tersely to WTTE.
He immediately woke his wife, Stephanie, and called 911. For her part, Stephanie saw that her son was only taking sips of breath every 10 to 15 seconds.
She frantically began CPR, concentrating so much on trying to save her son’s life that she didn’t even notice when paramedics arrived.
“What I remember in that moment from where my hands were was that you slid next to me and your hands took my place,” she later told one of the first responders.
Still, the Lentells’ story was far from over. Michael had no pulse and didn’t respond to an injection of epinephrine, but a shock from an automated external defibrillator restored an irregular heartbeat to the boy.
At the hospital, doctors would discover that Michael had Long QT Syndrome, a cardiac abnormality that causes the heart to delay its return to a resting state by milliseconds. That might not sound like a lot of time, but those fractions of a second can kill.
Fortunately, Michael was able to have an automatic implantable cardioverter-defibrillator implanted in his abdomen, a device that will help him avoid potentially fatal arrhythmia.
It also allowed him and his family to meet the first responders who saved his life.
“It was incredible,” said Stephanie. “I underestimated the emotional impact facing these firefighters would have, but to be able to personally thank them and have them meet Michael was amazing.”
The close brush with death has also inspired the Lentell family to tell others about the importance of CPR. Without it, Michael may have perished or faced irreparable brain damage.
“You have to know what to do,” Stephanie stated. “You have to know CPR because it’s not just your kid, it’s your neighbor, your husband, your wife, it’s anybody.”
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