Young athlete finds the courage to live life fully

Patients

Jordan

It started out like any other day. Twelve-year-old Jordan woke up, went to school, did her homework and headed to basketball practice near her hometown of Colorado Springs.  Once she got on the court, Jordan, a talented athlete, started feeling ill.

“I remember feeling extremely tired,” recalled Jordan. “I asked my coach if I could sit out.”

As she was walking to the bench, Jordan collapsed without warning. Her heart had stopped, and she wasn’t breathing. Jordan was in full cardiac arrest.

A parent of one of her teammates called 911, while another performed CPR for nine minutes until an ambulance arrived. Paramedics rushed Jordan to the emergency room, where pediatric experts from Children’s Colorado immediately began treating her.

A parent's worst nightmare

Jordan's father, David, will never forget the phone call they received from Jordan's coach that day. 

“She said Jordan was in an ambulance headed to the hospital,” said David. “My wife, Charity, spoke with one of the paramedics by phone. He told us he had to jump start her heart with a defibrillator three times.”

When David and Charity arrived at the hospital, they were taken into a room with a chaplain.

“They were preparing us that Jordan might not survive,” said David.

Jordan was admitted to the intensive care unit, where doctors put her into a medically induced coma. 

“We spent the whole first night wondering if she was going to live,” said David. “Then we spent the next several days wondering if she was going to be brain dead or have severe physical and cognitive limitations,” said David.

After 5 days in a coma, Jordan finally woke up. To her parents’ amazement, she started asking questions and making jokes right away.

Teamwork

Doctors at Children’s Colorado diagnosed Jordan with a heart arrhythmia and a pulmonary embolism – a blockage in one of the lung’s arteries. She underwent surgery to implant a pacemaker and defibrillator in her chest. The device helps control abnormal heartbeats and can deliver shocks if dangerous rhythms are detected.

Jordan was fortunate. Studies show that survival rates for children who experience a heart attack outside a hospital are less than 6 percent. Thankfully, Children’s Hospital Colorado has one of the best pediatric heart programs in the country, with heart surgery outcomes and patient survival rates ranking in the top 5 percent nationwide.

In addition to the outstanding care Jordan received, her parents were impressed by how much they were included in Jordan’s treatment plan.  

“It meant so much to feel like an integral part of Jordan’s care team,” said David. “We were involved in her morning rounds every single day. Everyone at Children’s Colorado – the doctors, physical therapists and nurses -- answered every question we had with detailed explanations.”

Just 15 days after her heart attack, Jordan returned home.  

Back on the court

Now 15 years old, Jordan is back to playing basketball, as well as running cross country and track. She takes heart medication daily, but otherwise she does just about everything she did before her heart stopped.

At first, Jordan’s parents were terrified about the prospect of their daughter returning to sports.  

“We argued about it for a long time, but eventually, I won,” laughs Jordan. “Initially, I was really scared to get back on the court, but I did it. I decided that I wasn’t going to miss out on enjoying life.”  

David admits he was “a nervous wreck” for Jordan’s first few basketball games. But he and Charity were reassured knowing that her defibrillator was in place in case she had another episode.

Jordan, a straight-A student, always wanted to be a veterinarian, but after her hospital experience, she’s had a change of plans. Today, she hopes to someday pursue a career in the medical field – possibly cardiology.

“I’m just grateful to be alive,” said Jordan. 

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