In January, a young swimmer's heart stopped in the middle of a race during a high school swim meet.
The then-18-year-old started her day like she did so many other days when she had a swim meet. Early in the morning, off to a meet, and into the pool. The state swim meet was held in Durham, New Hampshire, roughly an hour from her home in Hudson.
Ashley began to sink to the bottom of the pool as she concluded her lap in the 50-meter freestyle, her strongest event. The focus was on the next swimmer to come off the block, not on Ashley.
Ashley had gone into cardiac arrest, completely unknown to the timer, coach, or anybody else in the crowd.
Within seconds, the audience became enraged, yelling and pointing. Rich Spear, the timekeeper, dove in, but he couldn't get her to the surface. Sean McLaughlin, the swim coach at Alvirne High, dashed to the pool deck. McLaughlin yanked as Spear pushed. They were able to free her. Ashley was becoming blue and had no pulse.
An anesthesiologist, an intensive care nurse, and an EMT were among the parents at the meet, which Ashley's mother, Bonnie, refers to as the "dream team." They started CPR. The automatic external defibrillator, which was not near the pool but in another hallway, was recovered by a UNH student.
Someone called Bonnie.
She raced to her car with her husband, Randy, for the one-hour drive to Durham.
Meanwhile, Ashley was transported to an Exeter hospital and then transferred to Massachusetts General Hospital, where doctors utilized therapeutic hypothermia to protect her organs and reduce the chance of brain damage.
Ashley awoke with her eyes darting about the room, trying to figure out what was going on.
The breathing tube was removed by the nurses. When Ashley's parents inquired why she was there the next day, she sarcastically replied, "Yeah, because I'm a terrible swimmer."
Doctors believe Ashley has long QT syndrome, a genetic disorder that alters the electrical activity of the heart. Her heart rhythm was regulated by a defibrillator, and she has been well since.
Ashley had never missed a day of school in her whole school career, but she had to miss that week. However, on her way home from the hospital, she told her mother that she couldn't wait to rejoin the swim team. They were getting together. She was eager to leave.
The swimmers came to Ashley with hugs and tears, having all printed Ashley's name on their arms in her honor.
Ashley graduated in June and will be attending Husson University in the fall.
She volunteers as a lifeguard and swim instructor at the local YMCA, knowing what it's like to have one's life saved.