Seton grad saved by teammate after baseball accident

First slide

It was a hot summer's eve and, as usual, the Manassas boys' baseball team was on the field. Steve Smith, a recent graduate of Seton School in Manassas, had made it to second base. As he ran to steal third, a stray ball hit his chest and stopped his heart.

When the chest is hit by a strong blow at a certain moment in the cardiac cycle, as Steve's was, the injury -commotio cordis -causes cardiac arrest. The extremely rare event usually affects adolescent males and, according to Medscape, has only a 58 percent survival rate.

Before Steve could hit the ground, one of the coaches caught him mid-fall. His father, Tim Smith, younger brother, Noah, and the whole team ran toward him. "He was unresponsive," said Tim. "His eyes rolled to the back of his head - he had basically died."

Tim asked if anyone could perform CPR, and player Paul Dow began chest compressions. An ambulance arrived 10 minutes later and shocked the teen back to life.

As Steve was airlifted to the hospital in Fairfax, Tim picked up his wife, Mary Jo, and drove to the hospital. On their way, they let their friends from Seton and All Saints Church in Manassas, as well as family members, know what happened. In between, they prayed Hail Marys.

Meanwhile, Catholics and non-Catholics alike on the baseball team headed to the Seton chapel and began to pray. Tim received texts and calls from dozens of people letting him know they were praying for his son. Some had never prayed before.

"The outpouring of love and prayers was unbelievable. That's why God let this happen, there's no doubt in my mind," said Tim.

When he and Mary Jo arrived at the hospital room, Father Stefan P. Starzinski, Catholic chaplain at Inova Fairfax Hospital, had already administered anointing of the sick. Steve had no brain swelling, said the doctors, but was put into a medically induced coma so that his body could recover.

The small waiting room began to fill with people and Father Thomas P. Vander Woude, pastor of Holy Trinity Church in Gainesville, led them in the sorrowful mysteries of the rosary. Later, after his parents went in to see Steve's progress, they prayed the glorious mysteries, "because he was resurrected," said Tim. "It's the hardest I've ever prayed and thanks be to God, it came out alright."

Steve was injured Thursday, July 14, and by Saturday, he began to recover. On Monday he was released, with only the admonition not to play baseball for a few weeks and to return for a follow-up visit. "He has no residual damage. As far as we know, he has no more brain damage than he did before," Tim joked. "It's totally miraculous."

After his release from the hospital, Steve watched his team play at regionals, all the while begging to play himself, his father said. This fall, he'll continue playing baseball at Belmont Abbey College in North Carolina.

Di Mauro can be reached at zdimauro@catholicherald.com or on Twitter @zoeydimauro.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016