BATESVILLE, AR (KAIT) - A Batesville Pioneer is recovering at home after he nearly died on the practice field Nov. 19.
"We had just got done running our passing routes and I passed out," said Max Rucker, a 15-year-old Batesville Pioneers football player. "That's pretty much all I remember from there."
However, Rucker's athletic trainer said he remembers everything.
"I had two football players come into the athletic training room and stated that Max was down on the field, Max had passed out," said Keith Shireman. "I dropped what I was doing, took off running, sprinted out to the field. I found Max lying on his back out there with a couple of coaches. His heart had stopped by the time we got his helmet and shoulder pads off."
Shireman said he started CPR immediately. Four cycles later, the ambulance arrived and took Rucker down the road to White River Medical Center for tests. He was then flown to Arkansas Children's Hospital in Little Rock.
"That initial CPR saved his life," Shireman said.
"He saved my life," Rucker said.
The next few days were pretty hazy for Rucker.
"I was on the breathing machine for two days," he said. "It wasn't too bad. I woke up and had a bunch of friends there."
More tests followed and Rucker found he had a heart condition, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, which called for surgery.
"They put a defibrillator in," Rucker said. "It's not too bad."
However, a defibrillator means he has to hang up his football jersey for good.
"No more contact sports," Rucker said. "It wasn't too bad though. I said I was going to be an athletic trainer now."
Just like Shireman.
"When I asked his mom what he thought about not playing football, she said he thought about it for a moment and said he was okay with it," Shireman said. "He said he just wanted to be an athletic trainer with Keith. And I said, 'That's fine with me. I'll put you to work.' So I'll teach him some things and if he wants to go to college to do that, then we'll get him set up in the right spot."
The two reunited several days later at the hospital.
"We both started hugging and crying at each other as soon as I saw him," Shireman said. "It was just an unbelievable moment to see him still alive and breathing and talking to us."
"Thankful they were there because I don't know if I would be here now if they weren't," Rucker said.
Rucker was released from the hospital Nov. 26 just in time for Thanksgiving. He is recovering at home, but is not yet able to go back to school.
Rucker will go back to the doctor Wednesday for a follow-up to learn more about his heart condition.
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is genetic so his family will also get tested to make sure this does not happen to them again.
Rucker's family wanted to thank the city of Batesville for everything the community has done and continues to do for them.