Pitman basketball player Jake Zylstra had a life-changing first practice of the 2016-17 season.
During the Pitman Pride's first official practice back on Nov. 7, Zylstra went into cardiac arrest. Head coach Harvey Marable and his wife, Judy, kept the young athlete alive by performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation until emergency crews arrived.
“This team, these guys just experienced a life lesson during the first practice,” said Harvey Marable.
“Harvey had forgotten things at home so I went back to take it to him and stuck around,” said Judy Marable. “I just remember Dom holding him and lowering him to the ground and me and Harvey rushed to the court to check his pulse and see if he was breathing.”
During the chest compressions, Judy told the members of the team to call 9-1-1.
Within five minutes the fire department arrived.
“The thing is that the practices were going at all levels, and there was a lot going on within a couple of minutes,” said Judy. “The coaches from the other courts noticed it and took kids out of the gym. I estimated at least around 100 people or near it with parents and girls were there as well.”
Soon as the paramedics arrived, they began using an Automatic External Defibrillator.
“They had to administer a shock in front of me and in the gym, which I had never actually seen firsthand,” said Judy. “And in the emergency room he had nine shocks to get his heart started. They were continuing since it keeps blood going through his brain.
“The firefighter said with people who go through this, only about 10 percent survive,” she continued. “I am so glad I didn't know any of those statistics, but we are glad we kept his blood going through his brain. He is a miracle for sure.”
Zylstra was immediately rushed to the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center after the incident, where he remained until Dec. 1.
After being home for most of the month, Zylstra returned to UCSF this week for surgery. He had an internal defibrillator installed inside his chest to prevent sudden death from future cardiac arrest incidents.
“They are saying it is genetics, they ran tests and they are still trying to find the certain gene that is it,” said Jake's sister Heather Borba. “We are so thankful for everyone involved. The fire department has been great and very supportive and the coaches, and everyone involved. He is going to make a full recovery.”
Most importantly is that Jake will be able to return home for the holidays.
"I'm so grateful for everyone involved, they never gave up on me," said Jake from the hospital on Friday. "The struggles today have only given me strength for tomorrow."
The Pitman Pride haven't forgotten Jake, either.
“We are dedicating this season to him,” said Harvey. “Just glad it all worked out well for him and we experienced a miracle to get through that. Then we have to play basketball, but now that becomes secondary.
“We use it as a reminder to make the most of every moment, no matter what you do in school and life, there are changes you have no control over,” Harvey added. “So you always want to do your best and I told them to always be prepared for an opportunity and keep it in mind.”
Jake's family has started a Gofundme account to help with the financial burden of his sudden medical expenses. To donate, visit gofundme.com/jz-strong.