First responders reunite with 11-year-old who suffered cardiac arrest during soccer practice

Sabine Barrett, 11, and her parents stood together Wednesday morning in front of a packed room of first responders.

"Just feels crazy. There's a ton of people who helped me be alive," said Sabine Barrett.

The reunion at Dell Children’s Hospital, Ascension certainly was unforgettable. But waking up after surgery, Sabine admits all she remembers from her life and death crisis.

"Well, I was in the hospital and I remember waking up and thinking it was a zombie apocalypse," said Sabine Barrett.

On Jan. 19, Sabine was on a South Austin soccer field wrapping up practice when she collapsed from sudden cardiac arrest.

"Coronary artery anomalies actually occur probably in about five in a thousand people. And most of the people don't even know that they have them," said Dr. Carlos Mery with Dell Children’s Hospital.

The medical team at Dell Children’s Hospital identified a heart defect caused Sabine to collapse. An artery, according to Dr. Mery, had formed during birth inside her heart wall. When heart muscle compressed, it cut off blood flow through the artery during extreme exertion and exercise. 

The surgery team at Dell corrected the defect.


Sabine's father, Dan Barrett, said he cried out for help when he saw his daughter fall.

"It started with coach. I didn't know too well, but I was always pretty fond of him. So now we're linked," said Dan Barrett.

Nic Snyder, Sabine's coach, knows CPR and immediately started it.

"I'm so happy that we're here today talking about what we're talking about and appreciative of everyone's efforts. I see a lot of faces from folks and recognized in that moment," said Coach Snyder.

One of those faces was Paula Rodriguez. She was in the 911 center when the call for help came in.

"I remember the dad and the tone of his voice. I mean, it sounded really serious. It sounded very serious. I remember thinking that she's just 11, and she was just at soccer practice," said Rodriguez.

During the news conference, Rodriguez was spotted by Sabine’s father.

"I hadn't met you. Oh, my goodness. I'm so glad you're here. Thank you. I freaked out. You were wonderful," said Dan Barrett.

Rodriguez was brought up along with Coach Snyder and embraced Sabine after she thanked them. Everyone who played a role that day was recognized as being part of the chain of life. 

Members of AFD Station 51, who arrived first and took over CPR from Coach Snyder;  The Austin-Travis County EMS team for getting Sabine’s heart going again, 22 minutes after she collapsed; and the StarFlight crew that got Sabine and her father to the hospital in four minutes.

"None of this is one agency or one team doing this on their own. This is what happens when our public safety agencies all come together seamlessly to provide this level of care," said ATCEMS Assistant Chief Mike Wright.

Even heroes need help, which is why this reunion comes with a community message.

"The idea that bystander CPR, getting CPR started, getting early defibrillation out there, getting defibrillators across the city. Is the key to success and the key to survival in cardiac arrest. We have made it part of our strategic mission, Strategic Goals and Strategic Plan for Austin Travis County EMS to improve the rate of prehospital bystander CPR and defibrillation," said Austin Travis Co EMS Chief Rob Luckritz.

For Sabine, who went home five days after surgery, the goal is to get back into the game.

"I would like to be on the women's national soccer team."

If you had CPR training several years ago, you'll need a refresher course. FOX 7 is told the process is now limited only to compressions.  

In a crisis, Dr. Mery said don’t give up. People, according to Dr. Mery, have recovered after 90 minutes of CPR without any brain damage.