Ben Werchowsky

15-year-old Ben was going to school early one morning before most of the students had arrived. He ran up two flights of stairs and collapsed in the doorway of his classroom. He is very lucky that his teacher was there preparing for class! His teacher thought he was having a seizure and called the school nurse. The nurse told the teacher to call emergency services and ran to help, bringing a school resource officer. Because she thought it was a seizure, the nurse failed to grab the automatic external defibrillator (AED) from the wall in the hallway, which delayed care for Ben’s heart, but the resource officer immediately started CPR. Ten minutes later, an ambulance arrived, and the crew used an AED to start Ben’s heart. It took two shocks, but Ben was revived and taken to the hospital. His small local hospital thought Ben’s collapse could be due to drug use and did testing to look for drugs, but it was negative. When the ambulance crew arrived, the resource officer had also looked through Ben’s pockets for possible drugs. Nobody suspected a heart condition until later.


The first thing Ben remembers is seeing his mom with him in the hospital and the pain from having had CPR done on him for 10 minutes. For the next 15 hours, his short-term memory was impaired, and there was some worry that this could be permanent. Luckily, his memory has recovered, and he has only a little less focus than before his cardiac arrest. 


His small local hospital transferred him to a larger hospital with a cardiac unit, where testing revealed that his heart was thicker than normal. Four days later, he had an internal cardioverter-defibrillator implanted in his chest. He was given a diagnosis of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM).

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Ben Werchowsky
Ben Werchowsky 4