Eric’s Story: Athletic Trainer Saves Basketball Fan’s Life

Eric Butterbaugh enjoys the freedom of retirement. The 70-year-old Waynesville resident and his wife, Marilyn, always look forward to getting out of the house and watching their granddaughter play high school basketball. On Dec. 19, 2019, an evening that was supposed to be enjoyable for the Butterbaughs took a frightening turn for his family.

As Eric and Marilyn made their way up the bleachers at a Waynesville vs. Dixie High School girls’ basketball game and sat down with a friend at the top of the steps, Eric began to feel pain in his chest.

“My eyes began to roll in the back of my head,” Eric says.

“I saw Eric ask [our friend] for help,” Marilyn recalls. “We began to lay him flat on the bleachers and I yelled, ‘Call 911.’ At that point, people came running.”

One of them was Keenan Kidd, a Premier Health certified athletic trainer, who was at his post along the baseline.

“I remember someone coming over to me and said help was needed in the stands,” Keenan says.

Keenan recognized the situation was dire. Eric had suffered a heart attack and was unresponsive. Keenan evaluated Eric’s vitals.

“He was slumped over,” says Keenan. “I couldn’t find a pulse, he wasn’t breathing, and he was beginning to turn blue.”

In front of a hushed crowd – the game had been paused – Keenan determined he needed to perform CPR

“It was like second nature,” recalls Keenan. “I teach CPR regularly. We, as health care professionals, practice it constantly. I felt like a robot going in. I was not panicked. Once I knew it was a serious situation, I just took action.”

For nearly 10 minutes, Keenan performed CPR and requested a spectator retrieve the school’s automated external defibrillator (AED), a lightweight portable device that delivers an electronic shock through the chest to the heart.

The AED shocked Eric’s chest more than once before EMS arrived and transported him to Miami Valley Hospital North in Englewood.

“When we got to the hospital, I cannot tell you how many people - from doctors to nurses - said, ‘You are so lucky to be here,’” Marilyn says. “Many people who face these symptoms do not even make it to the hospital. Everything had to be in line for him to still be with us.”

The preparation that Keenan used in reacting to the emergency showcases the extensive skill of Premier Health’s athletic trainers.

“When you have a cardiac event, you only have mere moments to begin doing everything that is required,” says Keenan. “You literally have seconds to react. But it wasn’t just me. I had someone get my attention that there was a problem in the stands, I had someone get the AED, and people did crowd control. It was a group effort to help keep Eric alive.”

Keenan is the third Premier Health athletic trainer since December 2017 to spring into action and use an AED during an emergency. Brian Downs and Erin Schmerge are credited with helping to save lives using the devices at sporting events in Covington and Piqua, respectively.

Eric says his heart attack has served as a wake-up call to change his eating habits and overall lifestyle choices.

“It’s a life-changing event where I will have to eat right and exercise,” explains Eric. “I’m going to miss that good ole food I like so much. But for me, that is no longer on my menu.”

Eric has since made a full recovery and is working to change his diet and activities, so he’s able to attend future basketball games.

At a Dixie High School recognition ceremony in February 2020, Keenan was recognized for his efforts in saving Eric’s life. That potentially fatal medical emergency has forged an unbreakable bond between him and Keenan.

“I call [Keenan] my brother from a different mother,” says Eric emotionally. “I’m just so grateful that the response was so quick by everyone, including Keenan. The doctors at the hospital said due to their actions, there was minimal damage done to the heart.”

Marilyn says her husband would not be alive were it not for Keenan’s quick action.

 “That young man just would not quit,” she says. “He did not give up on him. He worked and worked and worked, until his arms gave out. Keenan is our savior. He is a miracle.”

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