Coach, firefighter gave El Cerrito basketballer CPR

February 3, 2010 6:11:41 PM PST
Less than one week after an El Sobrante teenager died after his basketball game, an El Cerrito High School student is in intensive care after collapsing during a game Tuesday night.

The 17-year old suddenly collapsed. His heart stopped beating, but thank goodness his coach, who is a police officer by day, knew exactly what to do.

There were just three minutes left in the game and El Cerrito had a double-digit lead over Richmond High. Their guard, a sophomore good enough for the varsity team, was on the bench.

"We stopped talking for about ten seconds and he started kicking over water. We picked up the water and were trying to see what was going on with him," senior Daniel Rice recalled.

The boy, with no history of a heart condition, went into convulsions and his heart stopped beating. Coach Michael Booker was courtside and his instincts as a 20-year Richmond police veteran kicked in.

"We started with the compressions," he said. "There's a parent who was a firefighter from Alameda County. He did the breathing while I did the compressions."

There was a police lieutenant on the sidelines, and a firefighter and nurse in the stands. This time they were lucky. It all came less than one week after a 17-year-old student at El Sobrante's Calvary Christian Academy died after collapsing on the bench during a basketball game.

Everyone at El Cerrito High knows the outcome could have been so much worse.

"Because of everyone coming together in this moment of crisis, we were able to avert what would have been a truly tragic moment," said principal Jason Reimann.

"It's something that we wouldn't want no parent to go through, like what we saw with El Sobrante, and the tears and the pain, and the anger and the frustration," says school board member Charles Ramsey. "Fortunately, we won't have that same similar story here."

All coaches are required by state law to be trained in CPR and all students must take a physical exam before they are allowed to play. This boy passed his test with flying colors.

The gym was silent Wednesday while the boy recovered at Children's Hospital in Oakland. He is in stable condition. His coach and his teammates say the season will go on.

In response to being told that people were calling him a hero, Coach Booker said, "Hey, I'm just doing my job. This is what I was trained for."