Ben Blankenhorn awoke at about 5:30 a.m. on the morning of August 22, 2017. He traveled to San Marcos High School in Santa Barbara, California, and warmed up with his basketball team by running drills on the track.
The next thing he recalls is waking up at UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles, where he was informed that he had survived a cardiac arrest.
He soon discovered he had passed out while walking to the gym. His teammates yelled for assistance and dialed 911. When a water polo coach discovered Blankenhorn wasn't breathing, he raced over and started CPR. A doctor who was running on the track came over as well. Until emergency medical personnel arrived, the doctor and the coach alternated giving chest compressions.
Using an automatic external defibrillator, paramedics shocked Blankenhorn's heart back into rhythm. They brought him to the nearest hospital, which then flew him to UCLA Medical Center for treatment by a pediatric cardiologist.
After tests revealed no cause, the teen had an implanted cardioverter defibrillator placed in his heart to shock it if it ever went into a life-threatening rhythm again. A week later, Blankenhorn was freed and told to take it easy for the next few weeks.
He performed a stress test eight weeks later. He was cleared by doctors to return to basketball.
His heart began to beat irregularly around 30 minutes into his first basketball practice. The ICD gave me a rude awakening.
Using data from the ICD and other testing, they discovered an extra electrical circuit that became active only when there was a fast, racing heartbeat, or tachycardia, using data from the ICD and other testing, making it difficult to detect on an EKG.
Blankenhorn's heart may have been racing so fast at the moment of his cardiac arrest that it couldn't acquire enough oxygen, forcing it to go into a life-threatening rhythm.
Blankenhorn resumed regular activities, including basketball, after undergoing surgery to correct the condition. His team went on to win the first CIF Southern Section 2A basketball championship in school history, and Blankenhorn appeared in the championship game briefly.
As he attempted to heal emotionally from the potentially catastrophic event, Blankenhorn said being a part of the team provided essential support.
Then, at the age of 17, Ben Blankenhorn, obtained his CPR certification as part of his lifeguard training. The courses took on a new meaning for him.
Blankenhorn, now 19 and a freshman at the University of San Diego, described surviving a cardiac arrest as an "opening" experience.
Grace Blankenhorn, his sister, was also certified. She assisted in the planning of a CPR class at her high school, where she is a senior.
Their father, David "Chip" Blankenhorn, had learned CPR as a teen lifeguard decades before. He now ensures that his training is up-to-date.
"You know you can save a life conceptually," he added, "but it didn't really resonate until this incident." "We were really fortunate to have individuals nearby who knew CPR and could provide it immediately."