Chase McEachern loved hockey. At the age of five, as a centre for his Barrie, Ont. minor hockey team, he scored a whopping 130 goals. In 2004, 11-year-old Chase was not only a left winger, he also became assistant captain for the Vaughan Kings Minor Pewee AAA, a Greater Toronto Hockey League team. But in October, 2005, after being injured while playing a pick-up football game at school, he went to emergency where the doctors happened to discover his heart was beating fast – up to 150 times a minute – even though he was sitting in bed, a condition later diagnosed as an atrial flutter.
That night, he went by air ambulance to Sick Children’s Hospital in Toronto and the next day underwent a cardiovert, in which doctors returned his heart rhythm back to normal with a small electric pulse while Chase was under a general anesthetic. It was successful and Chase went back to school and continued playing hockey, but this time, under doctors’ orders, wearing a heart monitor. During practice, however, Chase’s heart would sometimes beat up to 320 times a minute.
After hearing that hockey greats Jiri Fischer collapsed and Mario Lemieux retired because of irregular heart beats like his, Chase decided to start a campaign to make AEDs mandatory in hockey arenas and schools everywhere because, as his mother, Dorothy, says, “he realized that heart problems didn’t just affect older people.” Chase even went so far as to write TV hockey commentator Don Cherry a letter, asking for his support. Sadly, on February 9, 2006 before the campaign had a chance to get off the ground, Chase collapsed during gym class and was rushed to hospital, where it was discovered he had suffered severe brain damage due to lack of oxygen. After six days on a respirator, his parents made the decision to take him off.
Today, Chase’s parents, John and Dorothy, and his brother Cole, are excited about the support from The Heart and Stroke Foundation. “We want Chase to be remembered in the best possible light,” says Dorothy McEachern.