MEIGS COUNTY, Ohio (WCMH) — Community support is growing for the family of a 9-year-old football player who died after practice.
Wyatt Barber died Monday after a youth league practice in Meigs County. Preliminary autopsy results revealed an undiagnosed heart condition.
Wyatt and his teammates on the Eastern Eagles 3rd & 4th grade team passed physicals before they started the year with the Big Bend Youth Football League. Those physicals catch most health issues before they hit the field. But now a cardiologist from Nationwide Children’s Hospital is calling for a special piece of equipment on the field too.
At Zonez at the Market, a sporting goods store in Athens, the laser printer has been running non-stop for the last three days. Each pass adds another layer to the special helmet decals, a “56” clutched in eagle talons on a background of dark green.
Manager Dawn Wellspring says, “We just said if anyone’s interested let us know, we’ll be happy to get you some decals… and it took off.”
Three different states and more than 2000 athletes planning to wear the decals in honor of 9-year-old Wyatt Barber. Fifty-six was Wyatt’s jersey number. He died Monday night after football practice of an undiagnosed heart defect.
“They don’t know this little boy, they don’t know the family. So they’re looking for a way to show their support,” says Wellspring.
At Nationwide Children’s Hospital Pediatric Cardiologist Dr. Naomi Kertesz wants something else on the field too.
“Why, when a football coach goes out with pads and mouth guards and water, is there not an AED in his bag?” she asks.
Dr. Kertesz is a specialist in the electricity of the heart and an advocate of automatic external defibrillators (AEDs) on every practice or game field. She says family history and the American Heart Association guidelines for physicals are extremely important in detecting heart problems. But, she says, in a case as rare as Wyatt’s it might not have helped.
“You are looking for a needle in a haystack,” she says.
She says when a heart gets out of rhythm, an AED is one of the best ways to get that rhythm back.
“We know that sudden cardiac death occurs during exercise. If we’re worried about it then put an AED on the field, because it’s not only there for the child. It’s there for the coach. It’s there for the adults. It’s there for anybody who might need it,” says Dr. Kertesz.
Back at Zonez at the Market, Dawn Wellspring think’s all the support for Wyatt’s family will mean more awareness of heart safety too. She says, “Everyone’s wearing a little bit of Eastern Green with (these decals), no matter what they’re team colors are.”
Dr. Kertesz says each AED costs about $1,000 and could save countless lives. A vigil to honor Wyatt and his family was planned for 7 p.m. Thursday night at East Shade River Field at Eastern High School in Meigs County.