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'Bonded forever': Coach performs CPR to save Cloverleaf baseball player Kyle Hlucky

AED use by parent spectator also key to rescue
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Posted at 5:41 PM, Jan 11, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-11 18:16:25-05

LODI, Ohio — Kyle Hlucky's last name is pronounced "lucky" and he certainly feels that way to be alive and to have coach Scott Koenig in his life.

Kyle, a 17-year-old senior at Cloverleaf High School, went into cardiac arrest during a fall ball game last October in Tallmadge.

At the time, Kyle was playing for the Akron A's through Play Ball Academy and Koenig was coaching third base.

The coached performed CPR and a parent spectator alertly grabbed an AED and used it on the teen. Doctors said without those actions, Kyle likely wouldn't have survived.

"It still leaves me in shock," Kyle told News 5. "I still haven't really processed everything that's gone down. It doesn't seem real. It's just seems like a fairy tale."

The frightening incident is drawing comparisons to the collapse and remarkable recovery of Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin who went into cardiac arrest after tackling a Cincinnati Bengals player during a Monday Night Football game this month.

Hamlin spent several days at University of Cincinnati Medical Center before he was transferred to Buffalo General Medical Center. He was released on Wednesday.

Kyle, a left-handed pitcher, doesn't bat very often, but he was needed to hit on Oct. 9, 2022, because his team only had eight players.

He took advantage of the opportunity in the top of the fifth inning and drove a pitch into the left centerfield gap.

Koenig gave him the "stop sign" to stay as second base, but Kyle kept chugging and did a head-first slide into third base. His was safe, but it soon became clear that his life was in jeopardy.

"I got up on my hands and knees— like all fours— and then just collapsed," Kyle said.

At first, Koenig thought Kyle was having a seizure until he started gasping for breath and his heart stopped beating.

"My hand was near his heart and I could feel how stiff his chest was, and so I put my hand over his heart, and it just registered with me. He's having a cardiac situation here," Koenig said.

The coach immediately did CPR, repeatedly doing chest compressions, but Kyle turned pale and didn't breathe for two to three minutes.

But Koenig believes "the stars were aligned" to save Kyle because a parent, who just happened to using the bathroom in the nearby football stadium behind Tallmadge Middle School, spotted an AED and rushed over to use the device on the unconscious boy.

"Honestly, I thought we lost him," Koenig said. "I remember running to the dugout and all the kids were standing there, our team, and they all had that look of disbelief and shock on their faces like you saw on Monday Night Football with Damar's teammates."

Koenig then realized he needed to call Kyle's mother, Natalie Hlucky, who was driving home from a camping trip.

"I'm driving up Route 21 and he says, 'Kyle quit breathing. Kyle quit breathing.' And I'm going, Oh my gosh, Oh my gosh," she said.

But moments later, the AED shock delivered by the spectator brought Kyle back.

"I heard them say, 'Hey, he's breathing.' I told his mom, "He's breathing,'" Koenig recalled.

Paramedics rushed Kyle to Akron Children's Hospital where he was disoriented and confused for several hours. His father, Steve Hlucky, was at a Browns game and raced to the hospital.

"He said he couldn't see," Steve Hlucky recalled. "It freaked me out like is he ever gonna see again?

Despite the frightening symptoms in the hospital, Kyle made a full recovery.

A heart loop was implanted in Kyle on Nov. 14. The device has a "clicker" that Kyle can hit if he experiences any symptoms. It will also record his heart rhythm, among over things, over the next four years.

Dr. John Clark, a cardiologist at Akron Children's, diagnosed Kyle with commotio cordis, a rare condition in which an abrupt blow to the chest can lead to cardiac arrest.

"If it happens at precisely the right time, it can lead to ventricular fibrillation," Dr. Clark said. "It's really a diagnosis of exclusion when there's nothing else to explain what happened."

While doctors haven't revealed what caused Hamlin to go into cardiac arrest, Kyle sees similarities to what happened to him.

"With me, there's no video of anything happening, but seeing that, I'm like, Wow!"

In both frightening cases, Dr. Clark said immediate CPR and use of an AED was critical.

"I applaud Scott Koenig. I thank him for what he did and I hold up to the entire community," he said. "

Kyle, who is set to graduate from Cloverleaf High School in May, is planning to play baseball in college.

"I'm forever grateful that those people helped me and were able to have me here still today to do this," he said.

Steve Hlucky said he will always consider Koenig to be a member of the family.

"As a parent, you're really grateful that he saved your son's life because he did, but you don't realize how much work it was in such a small window of time," he said.

Kyle, who recently shot hoops with Koenig at the Cloverleaf Recreation Center, said he feels lucky to have another shot at life and Koenig is grateful that he had the right skills desperately needed that day.

"I already have a good relationship with the parents and it's cemented. We're bonded forever," Koenig said.

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