Edgemont High School Senior Suffers and Survives Cardiac Arrest

There’s nothing unusual about a 17-year-old spending the summer as a counselor at a sleep away camp. What is unusual is a 17-year-old counselor suffering a sudden cardiac arrest one night while hanging out with his friends. Cody Fisher, a senior at Edgemont High School, suffered a cardiac arrest on Monday, June 29th while waiting in the counselor’s lounge for his friends at Camp Nock-a-Mixon in Kintnersville, Pennsylvania. Fortunately, his friends responded quickly and got the camp nurse who immediately performed CPR. The camp doctor restarted his heart with an automated external defibrillator, while paramedics rushed to the scene. Cody was brought to Doylestown Hospital where he was put into a medically-induced hypothermia coma to rest his heart and preserve brain function.

His mother and stepfather, Alisa and Sam Herschaft, were out of the country when the incident occurred and spent the next 24 hours trying to get to Cody. When they finally arrived at his bedside Tuesday night, a team of specialists was trying to determine the cause of Cody’s trauma.

“That helplessness while you're waiting to see whether your child is going to be able to even function, it’s crazy,” Alisa said.

The culprit? A condition known as Wolff-Parkinson White Syndrome (or WPW) which, simply put, is an extra electric current that interferes with the main circuitry of the heart function. WPW is a condition that often shows no symptoms so it generally goes unnoticed and undetected. In the majority of cases WPW can result in a racing heart rate, dizziness or chest palpitations, but, in very rare cases like Cody’s, it can also result in a cardiac arrest.

By Thursday he was lifted from the coma and, although extremely scared and groggy, he managed to gesture a weak “thumbs up” when his grandfather announced that his beloved Mets had won their most recent game. “As soon as he opened his eyes I knew he was ok. I just knew,” Alisa Herschaft recalled.

Herschaft credits the camp and hospital’s quick response and treatment, because of which Cody suffered no brain damage “They totally saved his life,” she said, “they did everything right.”

On Tuesday, July 7, doctors performed a cardiac catheterization to examine the physiology of Fisher's heart and arteries, and found no abnormalities or significant weakness in heart function. The next day, Fisher received a catheter ablation—a procedure in which the abnormal electrical pathway is destroyed using radio-frequency energy through a flexible catheter—that should prevent a re-occurrence of the syndrome.

There is one other noteworthy part to Cody’s story. While awaiting his first surgery he received a surprise phone call from legendary quarterback, Joe Montana, a call that put an enormous smile on Cody’s face. But that wasn’t all, the next day, Bucky Dent, a famous New York Yankee who had also undergone ablation surgery, phoned and left a message. “I was in shock. It was pretty awesome”, Cody said, “he told me to be strong.”

Fisher will be wearing an external portable defibrillator for the next six weeks, as a precautionary measure, but is expecting to be given a clean bill of health after his next check up. Fisher said he plans on applying to colleges in the fall, and hopes to work eventually in sports management.

He retuned home this past Friday, July 10th and has been surrounded by family and friends who were elated at Cody’s recovery. When asked what it’s like to be home having survived such a major health scare he said, “It’s a little weird, but I’m happy to be home. I don’t know how to describe it. It’s an amazing feeling to know I came out of all this healthy.”