CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) — After Buffalo Bills’ Damar Hamlin suffered a cardiac arrest after a tackle during a game against the Cincinnati Bengals, two West Virginia mothers are recounting similar experiences to Hamlin’s.
“You hear these stories and sometimes it’s hard to listen to because it makes you relive what you went through,” said Bridget Washburn of Hurricane, West Virginia.
Washburn’s son, Will Washburn, was 15 years old when he died suddenly from cardiac arrest in April 2020. She said he was playing basketball at home when his heart just stopped.
“One of the cardiologists said it’s so rare, it’s like getting struck by lightning, and when we were talking to the cardiologist after Will’s occurrence … that was the cardiologist’s exact words, ‘there was nothing you could’ve done, it is such a rare thing that happened,'” she said.
Exactly two years and one day before, Kristy Ray of Ranger, West Virginia, experienced the same heartache. Her son, Caleb Ray, was eight years old when he collapsed on the field at his first soccer practice.
“He was playing and he sat down and he just fell backward and started convulsing. His heart stopped,” She said. “We didn’t have an AED. It took 15 minutes for an ambulance to get there, but we did perform CPR to no avail. It didn’t help.”
After the loss of their sons, both mothers started foundations to spread awareness and share the memory of their children.
Bridget Washburn began “The Long Live Will Washburn Foundation” which provides scholarships to students in West Virginia.
“You just don’t realize the amount of people that one person can touch,” She said. “So, it’s important how you live your life and the lasting impression that you’re leaving every day because none of us know when that last day may be.”
Kristy Ray began “The Live Like Caleb Foundation” which educates the community about heart conditions and raises money to buy AEDs for local organizations.
“When you have pain like that you don’t want anyone else to experience that pain so we do what we can to make sure no other parent has to live through this,” she said.
“The Live Like Caleb Foundation” has reached over 25 youth organizations across West Virginia, Kentucky and South Carolina.