Quinn Driscoll’s story comes from the heart

Commentary: Paul Valencia

By Paul Valencia, Columbian high school sports reporter

Published:

 

Sudden cardiac arrest. It happens to young people more than many of us would want to think.

We get reminders from time to time, whenever news breaks from across the river in Oregon that a high school athlete’s heart has stopped, or that an athlete from Texas has died on the football field.

For many of us, it is just that, a news story. We hope for a speedy recovery for the athlete who survived. We pray for the family who lost a loved one.

Those stories are much more personal for Vancouver’s Scott and Kelly Driscoll.

The Driscolls lost their son to SCA a little more than a year ago. Quinn Driscoll, a three-sport athlete at Wy’East Middle School, collapsed and died while running in gym class.

A couple of weeks ago, a football player from Central Catholic High School in Portland collapsed on the sideline. You probably heard the story of the cardiac nurse who was credited for her quick response and decision-making that helped save that athlete’s life. Lisa Lyver happens to be an old friend of mine.

I also have known Central Catholic’s head coach, Steve Pyne, for 25 years. It was a thrill for me to see my old friends from the neighborhood, describing that night to the country on a network news broadcast.

But I also thought of the Driscoll family.

Even though the Central Catholic athlete — Hayward Demison — does not have the same condition their son had, the story is similar enough: An athlete and the heart.

That always gets to the Driscolls. One of the ways of dealing with their loss is to try to help other families prevent a tragedy.

It is estimated that between 1,500 and 3,000 youngsters, 18 and younger, die from sudden cardiac arrest per year in the United States. The Quinn Driscoll Foundation is dedicated to education and to the testing/screening of young people for issues surrounding SCA. Quinn’s heart was twice the size of a normal adult’s heart, and it went undetected. As the foundation’s Web site described, Quinn had a ticking time bomb in his chest.

The foundation (quinndriscollfoundation.org) held its first mass screening event last month, and 130 teens showed up to be tested — for free.

Turns out, 12 of those youngsters required follow-ups with their doctors. Nothing serious was detected, but that’s 12 families who got pertinent information they never would have otherwise received.

Eventually, the Driscolls would love to see the heart screens as part of the annual physicals that athletes must pass to compete in school sports.

“My goal is to be out of the foundation business,” Scott Driscoll said.

Our direction in life can change in an instant. The foundation is an example of a life change for the Driscolls. Sometimes, though, there is a plan in place. Just like my friends.

Odd, the things we remember from our youth, but I recall one particular conversation in middle school when Lisa told me that she wanted to become a nurse, so she could help people.

A couple years later in high school, an older football player took me under his wing, showed me the ropes at the big school, David Douglas High School in Portland. He was a good high school player, and a great team leader. He already had the mind of a coach. In fact, Steve always knew coaching would be his calling.

The Pyne and Lyver families are close friends, living just down the street from one another. Troy and Lisa Lyver — high school sweethearts going on 20-plus years now — attend several games, to support the Pyne family.

Steve Pyne is living his dream as a successful football coach and a leader of young men. After meeting him 25 years ago this football season, never a doubt in my mind he would be doing just that. I know I would be proud if my son had him as a coach one day.

Then there’s Lisa Lyver. To be honest, that dream of becoming a nurse did not consume her through high school. There were years when she did not know what she would do. Sometime in college, though, she returned to that idea from so many years ago.

You just never know how these things will work out. More than a quarter century after she told me she wanted to be a nurse, she is in the news, credited with saving the life of a high school football player.

I don’t see Lisa, Troy, and Steve nearly as much as I would like, but when we do get together, we talk for hours.

To all of the high school students reading this, here’s hoping you have friends like these. And try to remember as many of the details as you can. These are special times in your lives — precious moments that are not guaranteed — and they are made more special when you can recall them years later.

Paul Valencia covers high school sports for The Columbian. He can be reached at 360-735-4557 or e-mail atpaul.valencia@columbian.com