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Posted by By Rosie Colosi March 22, 2024 on Mar 31st 2024

A 6-year-old went into cardiac arrest after he was hit by a baseball. His mom saved his life

A 6-year-old went into cardiac arrest after he was hit by a baseball. His mom saved his life

While playing baseball in Lake Worth, Florida, 6-year-old Oscar Stuebe was hit by a fly ball that sent him into cardiac arrest. Due to quick thinking and CPR from his mother, Sarah Stuebe, Oscar will soon be running the bases again — but this time, he'll be wearing a chest protector.

Oscar experienced commotio cordis, the same rare condition that caused Buffalo Bills player Damar Hamlin to collapse on the football field in Jan. 2023.

After several days in the PICU, Oscar seems to be neurologically fine and is resting at home. “He’s back to his 6-year-old self,” says his mom. “We were told not to get his heart rate up — a little difficult with three other brothers at home,” Sarah jokes.

Though these parents of four boys are relieved that their crisis seems to have a happy ending, they are taking action to stop other families from experiencing the same trauma.

Playing centerfield

On Sunday, March 10, the Stuebe family attended a double-header for their 7-year-old son's travel baseball team. Because there was a shortage of players, 6-year-old Oscar, who plays on a coach-pitch team, helped out by playing centerfield.

The first game went off without a hitch. During the second game, a player on the opposing team hit a pop fly. It was a "good hit" but it was "not hard," Sarah says. Oscar rushed toward the ball with his mitt held up.

"It looked like he caught it and it dropped," Sarah explains. "And then, he fell. To the ground."

Oscar’s father, Riley Stuebe, rushed to his son. From the stands, Sarah initially assumed Oscar was “fine.”

But then Riley yelled Sarah’s name.

“I’ll never forget that. It was just the way he said it” that indicated that something was seriously wrong, she says.

Saving Oscar

When Riley reached Oscar, he saw that "everything was stiff. His fingers were stiff, his hands were stiff, his arms were stiff. You could tell he was not in control of his body." Riley, a retired Marine Corps officer, explains, "I've seen trauma, and this was certainly in line with all of that. We couldn't find a pulse."

Sarah, who happens to be a nurse, grabbed her phone and ran to the field. Before she laid eyes on her son, she dialed 9-1-1 and handed the phone to her friend to relay details.

"He was having a seizure," Sarah says. She asked someone to time the seizure and put Oscar on his side. "During that, he went lifeless. His eyes were rolling in the back of his head. He turned grey. He started gasping."

Sarah, knowing that "gasping isn't regular breathing," again checked for a pulse and began CPR. She called out for an AED, a medical device to help in the case of cardiac arrest, but there was no AED at the field.

Even after Sarah began compressions, Oscar was unresponsive. After about two minutes, "it was hitting me that I'm doing CPR on my son."

A parent of a child playing on a neighboring field relieved Sarah and continued compressions for an additional 2.5 minutes. Riley and Sarah held Oscar's hand until the first responders arrived.


The West Palm Fire Station 2 happened to share the property with the baseball field, according to Fire Chief Diana Matty, so first responders were on the scene within minutes. "A lot of little pieces came together to give this little guy a great shot," she says.

"The ambulance ride seemed like forever," Sarah says. Along the way, the paramedics found Oscar's pulse.

At the hospital, Oscar was rushed into the emergency room while his parents were ushered into a waiting room. St. Mary's Medical Center happens to be a Level 1 trauma center. "There's only a couple in the state, and the fact that we were so close to one is another miracle," Sarah says.

Waiting for an update on her son's condition was "excruciating," Sarah says. "We prayed, we prayed, we prayed." In addition to praying for Oscar, they also prayed for the 7-year-old who hit the fly ball "because it was traumatic for everybody on the field."

Eventually they were able to see Oscar. He had been intubated and connected to a ventilator. The tube was removed Monday morning because Oscar was "fighting the vent" overnight, which seemed to be a positive sign. Oscar woke up on Monday, "delirious" and "hallucinating," and he finally slept from 5 p.m. on Tuesday evening through 12:30 a.m. Wednesday.

"Sleep apparently was the best medicine," Sarah says. "He woke up and was like, 'Hi, Mom!' And it was him."

Riley and Sarah had not left Oscar's bedside. In fact, they were still wearing the same clothes they had been wearing at Sunday's baseball game. Sarah's family traveled from Connecticut to Florida to take care of Oscar's brothers.

Oscar needed physical therapy and occupational therapy to get back on his feet, "and by Friday, it was back to old Oscar." He returned home that same day.

A message to parents

The Stuebes want to make sure parents have the knowledge, skills and equipment to keep their children safe.

Their sons will now wear specially designed chest protectors on the field, a measure required by USA Lacrosse but not by national youth baseball leagues. (Baseball and lacrosse players have the highest risk of commotio cordis.)

"We said, 'Whether you're in the backyard, at a friend's house, on the field ... you're wearing the shirt,'" says Sarah firmly. "And they feel cool wearing it," Riley adds. "Like they're on the Yankees."

They also urge everyone to learn CPR.

Sarah's mother connected Sarah and Riley with her cardiologist at New York-Presbyterian, Dr. Holly S. Andersen, who started a Hands Only CPR initiative. The Stuebes are hoping to spread this message.

"You don’t need to be certified," says Andersen. "All you need to do is put your arms out straight, interlock your fingers, lean over the victim and push hard and fast in the center of the chest."

They also hope that more locations will have AEDs on hand. These machines are now fairly affordable and easy to use. They can greatly increase the chance for survival.

The Stuebes say they greatly appreciated the care they experienced through the paramedics and the hospital, as well as the outreach from the opposing team.

Sarah says, "I was talking to one of the other team's moms and she said, 'We wear different jerseys but we're all on one team.'"