Jose Agredano was playing one of the biggest games of his life.
His soccer team, the San Benito High Haybalers, has gone undefeated this season, and he wasn’t going to let the Watsonville High Wildcats end their winning streak.
So when the ball landed between him and an opponent just 30 seconds before half time, Jose rushed to pass it with his chest.
That’s when the 16-year-old started to feel dizzy.
“I felt like the wind got knocked out of me and then usually when that happens you see clear still. But everything was blurry and I lost balance and I just collapsed,” Jose said of the mid-February incident.
His mother Gina Agredano was talking with another parent at the top of the stands and missed the play. But her husband immediately said, “Something is wrong with Jose.”
The Hollister couple sprinted to the field where their son was laying on his side. Agredano, a family medicine physician, was having a hard time looking at her unresponsive son. “My worst nightmare” is how she describes the experience.
She knew he needed help, but didn’t know what had caused his collapse. Was it a head injury? An underlying heart condition?
“He’s my son. There is obviously an emotional attachment to see him in that manner,” Agredano said. “He was unresponsive but he was breathing. So I just kept assessing him.”
After a few minutes, she started CPR. She performed chest compressions for two to three minutes while she directed the athletic trainer to grab an AED.
The AED arrived around the same time as the paramedics. Agredano quickly tore her son's jersey, slapped on the AED pads, and electrically shocked him.
He regained consciousness.
“I’m thankful she was there and I’m thankful she saved my life,” Jose said about his quick-thinking mother.
Jose suffered from Commotio Cordis—a condition created when an object hits the chest — typically on the left side near the heart — at just the right time in the electrical cardiac cycle that it creates a life-threatening abnormal heart rhythm.
Doctors say the condition is most commonly seen in baseball and hockey players.
“Some people can collapse right away when they have the ventricular arrhythmia or the abnormal heart rhythm. Some people may be a little dizzy and groggy and able to take a few steps. But, ultimately, people will collapse on the ground,” said Dr. Kara Motonaga at Stanford Children’s Health.
Jose was examined at Watsonville Community Hospital before a Stanford physician, who happened to be there, suggested he be seen by experts at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital in Palo Alto.
Doctors say the AED was critical to his recovery, and more schools and public spaces need to have the machines available.
“The AED is crucial. He essentially would have died without the AED,” Motonaga said.
Agredano's quick actions helped tremendously as well.
“It’s a surreal scene to see her doing CPR on him,” said her husband Jose Agredano, Sr. “She was so focused.”
Gina Agredano is still shocked by what happened — and how close she was to seeing her son for the last time.
“I’m still traumatized,” she said. “A little overwhelmed, but every time I look at him — it’s wonderful.”
The game Jose was unable to complete ended in a tie. He has now passed a stress test and is awaiting the results of an MRI scan so he can return to the soccer field.