CPR | That's The Kid Who Died Earlier This Year

Cardiac arrest survivor Kaeyel Moore speaks at the San Antonio Heart Ball about how CPR and an AED saved his life. (Photo courtesy of American Heart Association)

Around this time last year, the basketball coach at San Antonio's Ronald Reagan High School asked players to jot down their aspirations.

"To finish college and then join the NBA," wrote Kaeyel Moore, then a junior.

A lanky 16-year-old, Kaeyel (pronounced K-L) was a hard worker still growing into his body. Skilled enough to earn one of 12 varsity slots at a 3,600-student school, a future in basketball seemed possible when he arrived for practice the morning of Jan. 9.

Before even stretching, players loosened up with a slow-paced dribbling drill up and down the court. As he readied for his final round, Kaeyel bent over and tied his shoelaces.

The moments that followed changed everything – for Kaeyel and for countless others.

His laces tied, Kaeyel stood and took a few dribbles. Then his world turned black.

He was in cardiac arrest. He slumped to the court, his left arm twisted and pinned beneath his body.

About 10 feet away, coach John Hirst heard a thud, turned and saw Kaeyel down. Kaeyel's awkward position and stillness indicated something more than a stumble. As Hirst approached, he saw Kaeyel twitch and heard a wheezing noise. The teen's skin was turning bluish-purple.

"He didn't trip; he's choking!" thought Hirst, who once had a player stop breathing because he'd choked on gum.

Hirst rolled Kaeyel onto his back and realized it was far worse.

"Go get the trainer!" Hirst screamed to two students deputized for this purpose. At the start of every season, the team goes over how to respond if someone collapses. In every simulation, that person was always a coach, official or fan – never a player; in a lifetime of playing and coaching basketball, that seemed unfathomable to Hirst.

Athletic trainer Joe Martinez ran in, trailed by a student assistant who'd grabbed an AED. Hirst called 911.

Meanwhile, Hirst noticed Kaeyel's wheezing had slowed. Then came a weak, extended whoosh fitting what Hirst imagined to be a final breath.

Just then, Martinez arrived and said, "Is he breathing?"

Martinez performed CPR, then hooked up the AED. The machine announced, "Shock advised." Martinez pushed the button triggering a shock meant to stop an irregular heartbeat following cardiac arrest.


Martinez went through it all again – chest compressions, following the AED prompts, and providing another shock when the AED advised.

Martinez was on his third round of compressions when Kaeyel inhaled.

"Other than my two children being born, him taking that breath was the sweetest sound I ever heard," Hirst said.

Kaeyel heard Martinez's voice. The teen wanted to speak, but the sound he made was more like a hum. When he pried open his eyes, the world was spinning.

"It felt like I was oversleeping, and somebody was shaking me and trying to wake me up," Kaeyel said.

In the ER, doctors began the next phase of care: figuring out why Kaeyel's young, healthy heart stopped.

Eleven months later, it remains a mystery.

"Somehow, everything aligned in that specific way," said his mother, LaKisha Moore-Hamilton. "The theory is that maybe it was caused by a viral infection. There's nothing else to explain it at this point."

Only about 10 percent of people who suffer a cardiac arrest outside of a hospital survive.