After losing son, Sonoma parents help protect teen hearts

After suffering an unbearable loss when their 16-year-old son’s heart stopped in the summer of 2016, Michael Brindley’s parents decided to protect other teenagers from a similar fate.

Almost six years to the day after Brindley’s death, their efforts saved a teenager from Sonoma Valley High School.

On June 15, a 17-year-old collapsed while playing basketball at school. Her friends took heroic action, performing CPR and using an automated external defibrillator to get her heart beating before help arrived.

The boy was airlifted to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, where he remained hospitalized on June 22.

“Just so it was a young guy playing basketball,” said Kristy Brindley, Michael’s mother. “My son was playing basketball.”

The sport, she says, is where her son was born. Michael followed several teams and, under the supervision of his parents, started his own sports blog at the age of 13. Called Just1Mike, he amassed over 100 posts before his death.

“His dream was to become a sports broadcaster,” she said. “He was just a handsome boy with a bright future.”

Michael was excited to go to summer camp in 2016 outside of Chicago. “He was ready for the most magical summer,” his mother said.

One night he was playing basketball, a good game with his friends in every way. There were coaches and counselors around, even a paramedic, but the camp was located by a rural lake, far from the main medical centers.

“From what we heard, he threw the winning shot,” Brindley said. “And shortly after, he was in complete cardiac arrest.”

Rescue measures were taken, but Michael could not be revived. He died on June 21, 2016.

“It changes every bit of you,” Brindley said of losing her son. “We created this foundation to honor him.”

Launched in 2017, the Just1Mike Foundation offers heart screenings by electrocardiogram to high school students. Although heart attacks aren’t commonly associated with teenagers, cardiac arrest is the leading cause of death among student athletes, according to the Mayo Clinic.

An ECG test can detect “up to 70% of cases that put children at risk of sudden death,” Brindley said. “A lot of what we do is to educate people about something that people don’t know much about.”

It was important for Michael’s parents to screen his graduating class. Ultimately, the foundation tested any student who wanted an EKG at their west Chicago high school. Of the 1,900 students screened, 13 were told they had heart problems, many of which required treatment.

“It was a life-saving day for many families,” Brindley said.

She said the program detected at least one heart condition in each of the other 10 schools surveyed. EKG testing remains Just1Mike’s primary focus, and something the family hopes to bring to Sonoma Valley High School next year.

But when the pandemic took hold and EKGs became more complicated to administer, the foundation turned to the DEA donation.

Most school campuses are equipped with these lifesaving devices, which help restart a heart in cardiac arrest. However, the machines are often locked in an office and out of reach after hours. The Brindleys strive to make them ubiquitous and easily accessible to everyone.

Two years ago, Bob and Kristy Brindley moved to Sonoma. At a garden party leading up to the Sonoma Valley Education Foundation’s Red and White Ball last summer, they were encouraged to tell Michael’s story and share their plans for placing an AED tower in the sports complex. of Sonoma Valley High.

“We had passed the sports complex under construction and we wanted to contribute to it,” Brindley said. “Mostly because of our son’s love of the sport.”

Attendees were so inspired that evening that donations poured in and Just1Mike was able to contribute four full AED rounds to Sonoma Valley High. Three were installed in March on the soccer field, inside the gymnasium and on the outdoor basketball court.

The final tower will be placed at the new pool when it is completed in August.

No one could have predicted how quickly one of the machines would be used to save a teenager in need. When the teenager, who is not named because of his age, collapsed on the basketball court last week, the AED machine was just steps away, bright red to be easily seen by his friend.

“We are so grateful that everything went according to plan,” Brindley said. “We are incredibly grateful that our beautiful son was able to save the lives of others.”

Sonoma Valley Unified School District Superintendent Adrian Palazuelos added, “(I) wanted to make sure I didn’t miss an opportunity to express how proud I am of these young men who acted so quickly and so responsible, and to draw attention to our intentional efforts. to expand our community’s access to life-saving automatic external defibrillators. »

Brindley and Palazuelos both pointed out that the AED machine is accessible to everyone in the community. They will hold a ribbon cutting for the new machines when the final DEA is installed in August.

After its launch in Chicago, the Just1Mike Foundation has just started in this region. In addition to scheduled health screenings for high school students, he recently donated eight mobile AEDs to the Boys & Girls Club of Sonoma Valley, for use at the club and in its popular summer camps and sports programs.

“Keeping children safe is fundamental to the mission of the Boys & Girls Club of Sonoma Valley, which is why we were and remain so grateful to the Just1Mike Foundation for generously providing an AED unit for each of our eight Sonoma locations. Valley,” Michael Irvine said. , vice president of development and marketing. “Thanks to their support, our members will be close to potentially life-saving device at all times, and we have all recently seen the difference a readily available AED can make in the life of a child in cardiac distress.”

Learn more about the Just1Mike Foundation at just1mike.orgwhere donations can be made.

Contact Writer/Editor Emily Charrier at [email protected].