Seventeen-year-old Ferdie Wagner held up his hand.

   I need a rest, he indicated to his coach in the 34th minute of the game against Kewaskum Sept. 12.

   No one thought twice about the common request.

   But Ferdie didn’t make it off the field.

   Still many yards from the sideline, the Ripon High School junior collapsed.

   By all appearances, he was young, strong. The picture of health.

   Yet, inexplicably, his heart had stopped beating as it should.

   His mother stood in the stands, horrified.

   “Come quick,” she called to her husband. “Ferdie’s down.”

   Then Chris Schattschneider, licensed athletic trainer from Ripon Medical Center, and coach Kyle Sackett rushed onto the field.

   With them? An automated external defibrillator (AED).

                               * * * * *

   In recent years, AEDs have become increasingly commonplace in public spaces: restaurants, taverns, churches, schools — anywhere that people congregate.

   “[There is a] recognition of the importance of immediate application of electrical energy to the heart that must be done within minutes,” said John Teachout, head of Ripon Guardian Ambulance. “Having AEDs available in public places provides that availability.”

   Perhaps surprisingly, they’re especially important at youth sports activities.

   “Sudden cardiac death is the No. 1 killer in teenagers,” Chris said.

   The typical health work-up on a child, though, often won’t reveal that such a problem is on the horizon.

   “A lot of times these incidents can’t be picked up on EKG or ultrasound or any of the tests that can be done,” Chris said. “So during a sports physical, you just have to hope for the best.”

   If one can’t prevent a heart attack in a child, people on hand can do just one thing when one occurs.

   React — hopefully, with an AED in hand.

   Now, thanks to a gift from the Foundation for Ripon Medical Center, such AEDs are more plentiful at Ripon sporting events than ever before.

Read the full story of Ferdie's experience and recovery, as well how AEDs are being deployed to help future athletes, in the Nov. 23, 2017 edition of the Ripon Commonwealth Press.