The family of 12-year-old Elijah Jordan Brown-Garcia is grieving after he collapsed and died during football practice in Newark, New Jersey, on Feb. 10.
Elijah was performing light football drills with his recreation league team at West Side Park with the Essex County Predators when he collapsed on the field, in front of his 10-year-old brother, Mekhi Stradford.
Mekhi told NBC4 New York that he and Elijah were running drills when he suddenly collapsed. “He didn’t get hit, like, no contact or anything,” said Mekhi. “He ran about 20 yards, said he was going to take a little break. I don’t think he took enough time.”
Mekhi immediately called his mother as several people on the field called 911. However, nobody performed CPR on Elijah. The coach reportedly had gone to run an errand before Elijah collapsed and left an assistant coach and some parents in charge. It took more than 30 minutes for the ambulance to arrive.
Elijah’s mother, Raven Brown, said that she had to get three children dressed before making it to the football field, and when she arrived, the ambulance was still on the way. A police precinct was only a few hundred yards away, but the Newark Police Department said a cellphone 911 call could go to dispatchers countywide.
“It’s unbearable how much love I’m getting for my baby. He didn’t deserve this, he was a good kid,” said Brown. “He had so much further to go, he had so much more time, he was supposed to be here.”
Elijah’s aunt, Sable Shelton, wanted to know why none of the adults present knew how to perform CPR.
“You have adults that are supposed to be in charge of our kids and they don’t have the bare minimum when it comes to CPR or being able to realize what is an emergency and what’s not,” she said.
“The coach wasn’t there,” added Elijah’s mom. “And he told me ‘none of us are CPR certified, but I’m gonna do my best to make sure that all of us become CPR certified.'”
“CPR courses cost $75 for you to save someone’s life,” added Shelton. “We have this conversation about football all the time when it comes to them big, known players. But why we don’t have the bare minimum for the children, the kids — and my nephew had to witness it.”
Defibrillators or AED devices are required in New Jersey schools and events, but they are not required for recreational activities, sports leagues or private activities. There is also no law that requires coaches or staff be certified in CPR. Former Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a bill that would have mandated coaches and team staff to be CPR certified.
According to the American Heart Association, when CPR is performed on a patient immediately, it can double or even triple their chance of survival.
Buffalo Bills player Damar Hamlin collapsed during a football game after suffering from cardiac arrest on Jan. 2, but he was revived by the Bills’ assistant athletic trainer Denny Kellington, who immediately performed CPR. “I owe Denny my life,” said Hamlin. “Literally. He loves to say he was just doing his job, which is true, you know? And that night, he was literally the savior of my life.”
Elijah was in the sixth grade at Rise Academy Charter School. A GoFundMe set up to help the family cover funeral expenses noted Elijah’s “infectious smile” and his love for his friends and family.
“Elijah was an outgoing, loving young kid. He loved dancing and football and loved his family. He made sure everyone was comfortable with his infectious smile. He loved going to school and he loved his friends. At a young tender age of 12, Elijah passed away playing football, doing what he loved. No amount is too small.”