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Two words separated 17-year-old Morgan Wilson from life and death, her parents believe: if only.
If only the tennis center where she suffered a fatal heart attack had a defibrillator.
If only someone had administered CPR in the precious minutes before paramedics arrived.
Wilson's family is trying to prevent others from having the same regrets. The family members are campaigning for more automated external defibrillators, or AEDs, in athletic centers, and they have set up a memorial fund to pay for the cost of others to receive CPR training.
"The EMS was able to get her heart beating again, but there was so much brain damage things started deteriorating," said Debbie Wilson, Morgan's mother.
Morgan Wilson died Wednesday, eight days after collapsing outside of the Anaheim Tennis Center where she was taking lessons. She just finished some laps at Boysen Park and was preparing to do some sprints when she suffered cardiac arrest. Her family still doesn't know why.
Morgan didn't smoke or drink alcohol. In fact, she was a 5-foot-3 fireball who jumped hurdles, slammed tennis balls and ran cross-country. She was also a goofball who celebrated her half-birthday and learned guitar by watching YouTube so she could sing Miranda Lambert songs around the campfire.
Her family said she was unable to accept her limitations, writing messages on her hands and challenging herself to "bring it."
"She pushed herself so hard," Debbie Wilson said.
She even found a way to squeeze a little more life out of death. She signed the donor space on her driver's license, unbeknownst to her family. Her kidneys and liver saved three lives, according to the OneLegacy recovery agency.
"She's going to save more lives, too," said her mother, referring to the CPR fund, reachable at Esperanza High School. Morgan would have been a senior this year.
"Parents should make sure that those entrusted with their children's care know CPR and are prepared to administer it," said a prepared message from the family. "Ask whether their schools and athletic facilities have automatic defibrillators on site. Please, do not be afraid to ask."
The Anaheim Fire Department crews arrived five minutes and 40 seconds after the 911 call, said Lt. Bob Dunn, a spokesman for the Anaheim police and fire departments.
"We do not believe any lifesaving efforts were being attempted prior to the arrival of paramedics," Dunn said, responding to questions about whether CPR or defibrillation was administered beforehand. "However, we did receive a 911 call that prompted response of paramedics."
Dunn declined to say if paramedics used CPR or defibrillators when they arrived, citing medical privacy laws, but he said the team was equipped to do so at the scene.
The Anaheim Tennis Center employs coaches and trainers, who are CPR certified as required, said Ruth Ruiz, a city of Anaheim spokeswoman. The center does not own an AED and is not required to have one, she said.
The center, at 975 S. State College Blvd., is owned by the city, but it is leased out to operators. Tennis center officials declined to comment.
Dr. Anthony Chang, the director of Children's Hospital of Orange County's Heart Institute, said the first three minutes after suffering cardiac arrest are crucial.
"In the first three minutes, the heart is in the best position to recover from a cardiac arrest," Chang said. "In three minutes, if there's no chest compression, not only is the heart oxygen-starved, but so is the brain. So each minute that goes by, the recovery becomes less and less."
Chang said he was unsure how many athletic facilities own defibrillators, but he suggests that all have them.
In the last decade or so, efforts have been made to put defibrillators at schools after the deaths of student athletes, including Shauna Stuewe, an Esperanza High cheerleader who died after suffering cardiac arrest during practice in 2006.
Her family started the Shauna Ann Stuewe Foundation to raise money and awareness for the promotion of heart screenings and purchase of defibrillators for on campus.
Shauna Stuewe's younger sister, Melanie, recently graduated from Esperanza.
"Because there's more awareness of it, I think more schools are looking at AEDs," said Lori Stuewe, Shauna's mother.
In March, Orange Unified decided to add defibrillators to its 40 campuses over time in response to the death in August of Mitchell Cook, a Canyon High freshman football player who collapsed before a practice because of a heart condition. It's unclear if an automated external defibrillator would have saved his life. His father led the campaign to equip Orange Unified schools with defibrillators.
Chang encouraged people to get training in CPR and also to have teenagers who are involved in sports undergo heart screenings before participating.
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