WEST LINN, Ore. -- A Central Catholic football player had open-heart surgery Monday after suffering near-fatal cardiac arrest during a football game earlier this month.
Doctors said Hayward Demison, 17, had a defective, left coronary artery. It was a life-long ailment that had never been diagnosed until he collapsed and almost died just after he scored the game-winning touchdown in a game against Canby.
Demison's heart surgery began around 9 a.m., Monday at Legacy Emanuel Hospital in Portland and ended just after noon. The procedure went well and Demison was expected to make a full recovery.
Family members said the doctors told them they were encouraged that Demison's recovery may only take six to eight weeks, since he is such a strong young man, instead of the usual six to eight months.
"I love the game (of football) with all my heart, it's been my favorite thing to do since I was little," Demison, who plays tailback for the Rams, said days before the surgery.
A cardiac nurse who just happened to be in the bleachers watching the game against Canby rushed down to the sideline and began CPR. Demison had passed out and stopped breathing. Three other people - including a doctor - also assisted though it was the nurse who is credited with saving him.
"I'm just happy that he's with us still," said Central Catholic's head football coach, Steve Pyne. "I'm just humbled by the whole thing... (Demison) had been diagnosed with athlete's asthma a couple years ago, we thought maybe he was just having an episode."
Background: HS football player suffers cardiac arrest
On Friday night, fans and fellow students honored Demison with a standing ovation before the team's game against Jesuit. Demison also enjoyed a tearful reunion with the nurse who saved him.
"I lost it, I started crying...what a relief," said an emotional Lisa Lyver, the cardiac nurse credited with saving Demison.
Demison will miss the rest of this football season but doctors said if all goes well with Monday's surgery and his recovery, he should be able to play football his senior year.
"I'm just going to keep my head up high and support my team no matter what," said Demison. "If it's God's will... next year, #21 will be back."