Teenage Cheerleader's Mother Issues Plea After Daughter Goes Into Cardiac Arrest at Competition


The mother of a 17-year-old cheerleader is expressing gratitude that an automatic external defibrillator was available at the facility where the girl suddenly went into cardiac arrest on March 5.

Andrea Joe told WRAL-TV that her daughter, Keianna, was warming up for a cheerleading competition at Broughton High School in Raleigh, North Carolina, when the people around her became aware something was wrong.

“They had just gotten finished with the very first stunt,” Andrea told the TV station. “At that point of the stunt, they come down to where the girls are holding her in a seated position. When she got to that position, she was unresponsive.”

Andrea raced to her daughter’s side and quickly took over CPR.

“I had done two sets of compressions and breaths,” she said. “I had looked over and toward my left side, and I finally saw that the AED machine had arrived.”

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She followed the instructions on the machine and administered a shock, then continued CPR.

An ambulance took Keianna to a local hospital, but she was later transferred to Duke Medical Center in Durham, where it was confirmed the girl had had a heart attack.

Keianna’s mother told WRAL that she feels AEDs are a must-have.

“Every facility that has any kind of athletes and children at all, they need to have one,” she told the news station.

In a GoFundMe appeal, the girl’s aunt, Jennifer Cowan, reported that they later learned Keianna’s heart had been in ventricular fibrillation that Sunday.

“CPR alone would not have saved her,” she said. “Thank God for the AED on-site, as the shock was the only thing that kept our girl with us.”

Cowan also said, “We are unsure exactly what caused this incident, and can only speculate that her heart went into arrhythmia from a combination of dehydration, too much caffeine from an energy drink, and exercise.”

Cowan said that at the first hospital, Keianna had three more seizures and coded again, so she was intubated and placed in a medically induced coma.

The next day, she was taken off the ventilator and began opening her eyes and responding with eye motions and nods.

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By March 7, Keianna was talking again (“and being sarcastic,” her family reported), walking and starting to eat and drink.

“Keianna has no memory from Sunday and yesterday, and has some short term memory fogginess that we are hoping is just the sedatives still leaving her system,” Cowan reported that day.

“The memory gap has caused some confusion and frustration for her, but she continues to plow ahead on her road to recovery.”

On Wednesday, Cowan reported that Keianna had been transferred to Duke Medical in Durham, which specializes in cardiology.

“It looks like they might have to put an ICD (implantable cardiac defibrillator) in her, which … is used to detect and stop arrhythmias by delivering electric shocks as needed to restore a regular heart beat.”

On Monday, Cowan reported that Keianna was being prepared for surgery to implant the ICD device.

“She has been doing ok – sleeping a lot – focusing on her mental health. She is very nervous and anxious about surgery as well as what her new normal will be going forward.”

By Tuesday afternoon, the GoFundMe was within $300 of meeting its $20,000 goal, which is being sought to help with medical bills and follow-up care.

“Please keep sending positive thoughts and prayers as this [is] truly helpful for her to see all the love that is surrounding her,” the girl’s family wrote in the appeal. “Her strength is inspirational and we are all so blessed to see her smiling every day!”

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Lorri Wickenhauser has worked at news organizations in California and Arizona. She joined The Western Journal in 2021.
Lorri Wickenhauser has worked at news organizations in California and Arizona. She joined The Western Journal in 2021.