A close call with death. Elizabeth’s Story


Elizabeth Pearlman has always been a basketball player; she started when she was in 2nd grade and when she started college joined the team at Loyola University. While running wind sprints, she began to feel fatigued. She didn’t want to appear weak so she physically pushed herself past the point of pain to keep running. The next thing she remembers “is having the floor come to my face” because she had suddenly collapsed to the ground. Here’s her story in today’s Southtown Star.

Terry Smith, the head athletic trainer, rushed over he saw her eyes rolling in the back of her head and that she was having difficulty breathing. Immediately realizing the magnitude of the situation he called an ambulance and started performing CPR on her. Showing no signs of response, he grabbed an AED and began to administer shocks to Elizabeth as she lay unresponsive on the gym floor. A few minutes later Elizabeth awoke unaware of her surroundings; lying on a stretcher in a moving ambulance.

While the specific cause is unclear, she soon learned that she has a genetic disorder called Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Dysplasia (ARVD), in addition to having suffered from a pulmonary embolism. While she’s now physically fine her life has been altered. She isn’t able to play basketball anymore; a sport that has defined her for years.

Still, Elizabeth remains positive, she appreciates being alive and seeks to enjoy everyday to its fullest. She looks at things from a new perspective and is now an assistant coach for the basketball team. She is coming up on the one-year anniversary of this incident and wants to be an advocate for not only for genetic testing but also the presence of AEDs in all settings. Her goal is to prevent future injuries and deaths by raising awareness. She has turned a tragedy into an inspiration.

Julie Kahn is an intern in the marketing and communications department at the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago

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