The right help, at the right time

Cardiology/Heart Care

March 14, 2018

CPR helps save a student-athlete’s life

Kristin_z.jpgKnowing CPR really does save lives,” says Derek Ratliff, MD, recalling a track meet his daughter Kristin participated in a year and a half ago. She was running the last leg of a four-person relay on the Cooperstown High School track when she suddenly stopped, walked into the infield and collapsed.

“My parents were called over because something was obviously wrong, and then they noticed that my heart wasn’t beating and I was gasping for air. So they started CPR,” Kristin explains.

In fact, there were quite a few people around the track who knew CPR; some of them medical colleagues of Kristin’s father. In addition to initiating CPR, the school’s defibrillator was brought out and used to shock Kristin’s heart twice to get it beating again.

“She is the poster child for someone who’s alive because of CPR and having a defibrillator there,” says Dr. Ratliff. “We were less than a mile from the hospital. She got to the emergency room quickly, and there were people there to take care of her, for which we are very grateful.”

Kristin spent a day in the intensive care unit at Bassett Medical Center in a medically induced coma, but she came out of that OK. Follow-up imaging and other tests revealed that Kristin had a condition known as Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome.

“Usually most people have one electrical current that goes through their heart,” Kristin says. “But I had an accessory pathway causing my heart to short-circuit.”

Fortunately, the condition is treatable, and Kristin’s heart was fixed. She is healthy and back to running, now for the Amherst College cross-country, indoor and The right help, at the right time CPR helps save a student-athlete’s life —Continued on page 2 Photo credit: Veronica Rocco Visit us at, and follow us on The right help, at the right time outdoor track teams. She wants to go to medical school and is on a pre-med track at Amherst.

Kristin and her father agreed to share their story to encourage others to learn CPR so that if you happen to be a bystander like those in the crowd when Kristin collapsed on that day in May 2016, you, too, may be able to save a life.

“It is easy to kind of take everything for granted because you don’t expect something bad to happen, especially when you’re young and healthy,” Kristin says. “And without CPR and a defibrillator, I probably wouldn’t be here.” 

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