FAIRBORN — On Sept. 17, Fairborn father Jim Hart received a phone call that no parent is ever prepared to receive.
His son, Bennett Hart, had gone into cardiac arrest during a baseball practice at Fairborn High School, and was on his way to Dayton Children’s Hospital, administered to by Fairborn paramedics.
Bennett, part of the Fairborn baseball team, was born with a rare heart condition that, to this day, doctors have been unable to identify. He had joined his teammates down at the athletic stadium, preparing for the spring season with a conditioning practice.
The next thing Coach Bronson Marlett and his teammates knew, Bennett had fallen down six sets of stairs, having gone into full cardiac arrest. According to some studies, cardiac arrest outside a hospital setting has a survival rate of less than 1 percent. Over the next several tense moments, the actions of Fairborn athletic trainers, Marlett, and two student leaders saved Bennett’s life, ensuring he would not become a part of that statistic.
Immediately, Marlett called Kettering Health athletic trainers Jaci Combs and TJ Tillman by cell phone, and sent athletes Bailey Snapp and Andrew Yeary to retrieve them. At the same time, Marlett ran to retrieve the AED equipment, and called 911.
Bennett has an internal defibrillator, which shocked him six times in an attempt to get his heart beating again. After that, it was unable to read his heart rate sufficiently in order to function. Upon arrival, Combs and Tillman performed CPR and shocked him two more times with the AED Marlett brought before Fairborn firefighters and paramedics arrived.
Bennett was taken to Dayton Children’s Hospital before being transferred to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. There, he was able to recover. Athletic Director Kevin Alexander, who was notified of the incident as it was unfolding, said the Harts returned the AED to his office themselves only a week ago.
Jim Hart said this isn’t the first time he has gotten a phone call similar to this. The Hart family and Marlett had been in close contact regarding Bennett’s condition. Bennett had a similar incident in 2013, though this is the first time it’s been this serious.
“All of the Fairborn City Schools from Superintendent Lolli down have been amazing in support of getting my son taken care of that day. Even in the aftermath, coming back to school, getting him what he needs to return to school full time,” Hart said.
Jim Hart personally thanked the coach, trainers, and students for their actions. Toward the end of his comments during the recognition, he grew emotional.
“My son is in the back of the room today because of what they did,” he said.
“This is when things go right,” Fairborn Fire Chief Dave Reichert said. “I’ve talked with [my staff] and they have said absolutely it was the actions of the leaders, trainers and students that were there at the time that had the positive outcome.”
Mayor Paul Keller also spoke during the recognition.
“These are things that bring us together, keep us strong, and make us proud of our community,” Keller said.
Reichert presented the honorees with plaques commemorating their “selfless courage and professionalism by assisting with the care of a citizen in need.”
Jamie Hensley of the Fairborn Rotary Club also presented them with gift cards and named all five of Fairborn’s Citizen of the Week.
Most likely, Bennett will not be able to participate in baseball anymore. His cardiologist has all but prohibited him from moderate to intense physical activity for the foreseeable future. However, Jim Hart said that the administration and Marlett have offered to let Bennett be a part of the Fairborn baseball team in whatever way he can.
“He has a love for the sport and wants to be around it,” Hart said. “Just being active and being a kid.”