Saturday: Monticello student suffers heart attack in basketball game

  • Article by: WARREN WOLFE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 3, 2012 - 10:17 AM

His heart was restarted twice with a defibrillator. The coach said he wasn't aware of any previous health problems.

Starting center Adam Thielen "looked fine when he came off the court" five minutes into the game, Monticello basketball coach said Saturday. "Then he just sprawled onto the court." Thielen, 18, collapsed with a heart attack two minutes after he sat on the bench Friday night.

A defibrillator was used twice to restart his heart, school officials said.

He was in an induced coma Saturday at North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale, where doctors cooled his body to minimize damage, his parents, Paul and Candace Thielen, said in a posting on the Caring Bridge website.

At midnight Saturday, doctors were to begin the 12-hour process of rewarming his body at midnight, they said on the website, which also carried scores of messages of encouragement from friends.

"This is just so surreal," said his coach, Bruce Balder-Lanoue. "You just can't imagine this happening to nice young kid like Adam -- A.T., everybody knows him as A.T."

Thielen played the first five minutes of the game with Rogers on Friday and came off the floor as part of the normal player rotation, said coach Bruce Balder-Lanoue.

"Everything seemed normal. He didn't ask to be taken out. He was sitting on the bench and then he just collapsed" forward onto the basketball court, he said. The game was stopped when Thielen collapsed and play did not resume.

A fireman and paramedic attending the game used the school's portable defibrillator -- on site for two or three years -- to restart Thielen's heart. An ambulance crew repeated the treatment on the way to Monticello Hospital, Balder-Lanoue said.

Thielen was airlifted to North Memorial where he remained in critical condition Saturday night as his parents kept vigil. A prayer service for Thielen was held at 5 p.m. Saturday at the high school.

The coach said he's not aware that Thielen had any previous health problems.

"He's a great kid, really well-liked -- good sense of humor, just a nice, nice kid," Balder-Lanoue said.

Thielen also has been starting center for the Monticello Magic football team and first baseman for the baseball team.

Rules require a physical

Under Minnesota State High School League rules, a student athlete must have a physical exam every three years and complete an annual health questionnaire. Balder-Lanoue said he believes Thielen had a physical as a sophomore.

Heart attacks are rare among student athletes, but they happen every year -- often caused by a heart defect that has gone unnoticed. Many schools have portable defibrillators in case of such emergencies. Last December, a high school junior and nine others in the crowd used a defibrillator to save the life of referee Dale Wakasugi, 49, during a basketball game in Fridley.

"This is the second time we've used the defibrillator," Balder-Lanoue said. "The first time we weren't so lucky. A student in phy ed died."

Before the 7:30 p.m. game Friday, Thielen was honored at the annual "senior night" ceremony.

"Since A.T. is the only senior on the team, we made it 'A.T. night,' " the coach said. "We gave people little masks on Popsicle sticks so everybody could look like A.T."

Warren Wolfe • 612-673-7253

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