CT Man’s Heartfelt Mission To Save Lives After Nearly Dying at 17
Mike Papale is from Wallingford, CT.
Before 2006, Mike was a teenager like any other who had big dreams of becoming a college basketball player. But it was in August of '06 that he nearly lost his life and had a health scare changed his trajectory forever.
What Happened to Mike When He Was 17? This is the Story of The Day He Died In His Own Words
I was 17 years old at the time and everything seemed to be falling into place. I was a good student, had good friends, and was doing everything I could possibly do to fulfill my dream of being a college basketball player. The morning of August 24, 2006, was no different. I did my daily basketball workout in the morning and then went over to a local basketball camp where I was a coach. I arrived at the Parks and Recreation Department, where the camp was being held and walked over to change my shirt. That is all I remember of the day that I “died.”
From what I’ve heard I was sitting down on a bench when I just slumped over onto my knees. No one in the gym really knew what was going on. My dad, my brother, and my best friend stood there, watching. Someone called 911 implying someone had broken a bone. A second 911 was called saying a 17-year-old was on the floor and unresponsive. There was no automated external defibrillator on site.
That was when my hero’s pager went off. Luckily, he was working right next door in a different building. He left work without anyone noticing and ran over to where I was. By the time he got to me, I had turned blue and was taking my last agonal breaths. He gave me CPR perfectly, saving my life (as well as my brain).
When the ambulance arrived, they used an AED to restart my heart and put it into a normal rhythm. They still didn’t know if I would make it. I was brought to MidState Medical Center where I had a second arrest. They wanted to Life Star me to Hartford, but needed a large, specialized ambulance to hold the necessary equipment, doctors, and nurses. My mom rode in the front seat of the ambulance, not knowing if I was going to live. Earlier that morning I had been battling on the basketball court; now I was battling for my life. For the next three days, I was unaware of everything. The hospital revived me, but there was still the question of whether I would have brain damage.
Finally, I started to come around and began to remember where I was and why I was there. I went through some uncomfortable tests, which resulted in the diagnosis of Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy—a thickness of the septum and apex of my heart. After the tests, I thought I would resume my “old” life, with the exception of daily medication. I was right about the medicine, but the doctors delivered some crushing news. I would have an ICD, or a defibrillator, implanted in me and I would never be able to play competitive basketball again. At first, I didn’t understand why; basketball was a big part of my life. But as time passed, I began to accept that I would have to change many parts of my life. I felt very fortunate to be alive.
After returning home and getting my life back to normal, I felt like I needed to give back. I felt like I needed to help others. My mom contacted the American Heart Association and they welcomed us with open arms. We both became volunteers and spokespeople for them. We agreed to share our story to try to help save lives. We did lobbying in Hartford, as well as Washington D.C. We assisted in two bills being passed in Connecticut mandating defibrillators be placed in all public schools in Connecticut. It was very fulfilling to try to help save someone from going through the trauma we had experienced as a family.
Mike's Mission to Save Lives
Mike Papale has an organization called In a Heartbeat that is dedicated to raising awareness about heart health and donating devices that can save young lives. Their mission is to prevent death from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) and sudden cardiac arrest by raising awareness, enabling research, and donating automated external defibrillators (AEDs) to places that need them. In a Heartbeat is located in Wallingford Connecticut and we also provide CPR/AED training and host free community ECG screenings for children, teens, and young adults.
Mike Papale: Author
Mike Papale Shares His Story With the I-95 Morning Show
Mike Papale was a guest on the Wednesday (11/01/23) edition of the I-95 Morning Show. We talked about his health scare, his organization and his mission, you can listen to the entire conversation below.
Danbury Area Folks Share Their NFL Fandom for Playoffs
Gallery Credit: Lou Milano
Some of the NFL’s All-Time Most Feared Tough Guys – Part 1
Gallery Credit: Lou Milano