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January 25. 2014 10:47PM

'Team effort' rescues 15-year-old basketball player stricken by heart attack during game

LEBANON — The family of a 15-year-old Lebanon boy who suffered a heart attack during a basketball game in Hopkinton Friday says the quick action of school officials and bystanders saved the boy’s life.

Nancy Parsons, principal at Lebanon High School, said sophomore Chris Roberge was "doing very well" at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center on Saturday. "He is responding with head shakes, yes and no. He recognizes people," she said.

Chris is the son of Carline Roberge of Lebanon and John Roberge of Groveton; his stepfather is Balvin Bowen, according to Parsons.

Parsons said the boys' reserve team was playing the freshmen team at Hopkinton Friday when the medical emergency happened. Chris was sitting on the bench when the episode occurred.

Hopkinton athletic director Dan Meserve and others rushed to help the stricken boy, who had no pulse and was not breathing. They performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation and used an AED, an automated external defibrillator.

And by the time paramedics arrived, the boy's heart was beating again. "It was a team effort," Parsons said. "They are all heroes."

Meserve was running the clock when the Lebanon coach called over to him, asking for help. "He said, 'I need a trainer now. One of my players is in trouble,'" he said.

Meserve ran to help, and he and others lowered the boy to the floor. "We realized he was not breathing," he said.

Meserve started doing CPR, and someone ran for the AED, which was close by. "We had to shock him twice," Meserve said.

Someone else called 9-1-1 and stayed on the phone with the dispatcher. "By the time we did the second shock, the rescue squad was there, and at that point they took over," Meserve said. "By the time they got here, he did have a pulse."

The boy was taken by ambulance to Concord Hospital and then flown by helicopter to Dartmouth-Hitchcock.

Meserve said one of the officials and two parents who had medical backgrounds stepped up to help. "It was an absolute team effort," he said. "It really was, in a sad, strange way, nice to see everybody just get together and do this."

Jim Roberge is Chris' uncle; he's a licensed practical nurse in St. Petersburg, Fla. He said his nephew was in a medically induced coma Friday night and "it was touch and go there for a while." But on Saturday, he was conscious and "on the road to recovery."

Roberge said an MRI showed that Chris never lost oxygen to his brain. "That's how incredible the first responders were," he said.

And on behalf of the Roberge family, he said, "we just can't express enough thanks for everybody that was there."

Meserve said Hopkinton High has had an AED for about 10 years, thanks to the booster club. "That's probably what saved this kid's life," he said.

In August, Meserve took a refresher course in CPR, where the instructor suggested singing the song "Stayin' Alive" while performing chest compressions to keep the correct rhythm. And that's just what he did as he worked on Chris, he said. "I'm actually singing out loud, 'Stayin' Alive.'"

Jim Roberge said his nephew had undergone a medical procedure to treat an unrelated cardiac problem when he was just 3 years old. Now, Chris will have to undergo surgery to have a defibrillator implanted.

Parsons, who drove Carline Roberge to the hospital and stayed with the family there Friday evening, also arranged for counselors to meet the bus when the Lebanon players got back to school. And she called all the players' parents on Saturday to share the news that Roberge was doing well.

Parsons describes Chris Roberge as "a very happy kid" who is well-liked.

"God wasn't ready for him yesterday, thank heaven," she said. "It wasn't his day to go."

swickham@unionleader.com


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