Youth Is No Defense - Los Angeles News | FOX 11 LA KTTV

From Anchor Jeff Michael

Youth Is No Defense

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Thursday a 14 year old boy collapsed and died during football practice in Orange County. It's a tragedy that none of us can understand and yet, while I don't know what caused his death, I can tell you it resonated with me personally.

Last month I almost lost my son.

My oldest son is an exemplary athlete. He was a record setting high school football quarterback, a college lacrosse player and a life-long basketball player. July 14th he competed in New York's triathlon. He trained for it. It was his reward for studying for New York's Bar Exam. After cruising through the swimming and bicycling legs he felt great and looked forward to the run. After six miles, he turned toward the finish line stretch. It is the last thing he remembers.

I will never forget the voice mail I got from a hospital ER nurse asking me to call as soon as possible, or the call from my youngest son saying, "Dad, Tom collapsed in the triathlon. He's in the ER and they say he's unresponsive". I was in my car and turned toward LAX, my hand gripping my head as if it would still the racing thoughts that I could be loosing the love of my life.

Tom arrived at the hospital with a core body temperature of 109 degrees; as the doctor would later tell me, a level of heat incompatible with life. I took the next flight to New York and arrived to find my boy barely conscious but alive.  I won't go in to all the details of organ failure or the anguish his mother, brother, sister and I went through but I will tell you I learned that night that none of us-- even the youthfully fit are impervious to putting ourselves in danger without realizing it.

We may think we know our limits but we don't. We don't know what congenital trigger lies within us nor what warning mechanism we might be missing. Tom did nothing reckless. Most young athletes who collapse on fields, courts or tracks didn't think they were pushing themselves beyond their limits either. Tom recovered. Two weeks after his collapse, he took the Bar exam. I am a very thankful dad. And I have a new appreciation for the fragility of life. I wish I could pass along some wisdom or warning sign that will help others avoid the fright our family went through or the grief the family of that Canyon High School boy must be enduring. But all I can say is, remember life is a gift and no matter what age, fitness or competitive spirit it comes with, it is breakable.

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