“Eighteen-year-old elite athletes don’t just drop dead,” said Dr. Louis, “but Ebonie did.”
Ebonie Sherwood, a three-sport high school senior, headed to college on a track scholarship, fell dead in her athletic trainers’ office during an otherwise normal after school practice.
“If the trainers didn’t have the AED, she wouldn’t have survived long enough to even make it to the hospital,” said Ebonie’s mom, Beverly Sherwood.
Ebonie was seen as a leader amongst her peers at her small, Dayton, Ohio high school— she played as a defensive end on the football team and was making plans for her senior prom.
Sudden Cardiac Death at High School
Without warning, Ebonie went into cardiac arrest at her track practice, and was taken to her local hospital, where they found clots in her lungs and made the decision to have her flown to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. When she arrived there, Ebonie was having a massive heart attack—and was transferred to UC Medical Center, home to the region’s most established heart care program.
“She had a second heart attack and had to be put on life support when she got here,” Louis B. Louis IV, MD, chief of cardiac surgery at UC Health and the Louis Buckberg endowed chair of cardiac surgery at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine said.
Ebonie didn’t just have clots in her lungs—she had clots everywhere—clots that were killing her.
Three times Ebonie died—or tried to.
Her cardiovascular intensive care unit team of physicians, nurses, anesthetists, respiratory therapists, pharmacists, surgeons— were dedicated to saving Ebonie’s life and with her every step of the way.
Life-Saving Measures and the Decision for a Heart Transplant
“We used life support, and then ECMO to buy us some time, to keep her organs alive while we figured out what to do. I was calling on everyone,” Dr. Louis said. “It was all hands on deck.”
For her best chance of survival, Ebonie needed a new heart, and she needed it as fast as possible.
“We decided that for her best chance at survival, we needed to give up on her current heart and find her a new one. Emergent heart transplants don’t happen often,” Dr. Louis explained, “but we did it.”