The Vallivue High baseball team hosted its senior night last week, honoring its eight seniors with all the typical ceremonies. The announcer detailed their accomplishments, coaches handed out oversized posters of the players, and the boys threw honorary first pitches to their parents.
But one fact hung over the night — Wyatt Schmidt shouldn’t be there.
Schmidt, now 18, was dead for 10 minutes when his heart stopped two years ago during a pool party. Quick thinking kept him from drowning, and timely CPR and paramedics brought him back to life.
He’s made a full recovery to take his spot on the Falcons’ baseball team as they chase a 4A district title and a state tournament berth.
“I straight up don’t think about it anymore,” Schmidt said. “I just live how I used to live before the accident.”
CARDIAC ARREST IN THE POOL
Schmidt and his best friend, Lan Larison, spent July 7, 2017, together as a lazy summer day. They rode their bikes to the gas station, went fishing and swimming, and then made a trip to Dutch Brothers before returning to a pool party at Schmidt’s house.
The next-door neighbors often raced underwater from one end of the pool to the other. But when Larison popped up, he noticed Schmidt by the diving board. Schmidt said his chest hurt, grabbed it and slipped below the surface.
Larison thought he was joking until he saw him try to breathe underwater. He dove, pulled him up and then lugged him over the side of the pool.
Larison rushed inside to grab Schmidt’s mother, Brandy Schmidt. Larison dialed 9-1-1, and a dispatcher gave Brandy Schmidt and Larison’s father, Bob Larison, instructions on how to perform CPR.
“I’ll never forget that,” Larison said. “He turned black, purple. The noises, they’ll always be there.”
Paramedics arrived 10 minutes later and needed to shock Schmidt twice to restart his heart. Once he was stable but still unresponsive, they transported him via ambulance to Saint Alphonsus in Boise. Larison followed, still in his swim trunks.
‘A BIG OLD MIRACLE’
Doctors later told Schmidt that he’d suffered cardiac arrest, an electrical malfunction that causes the heart to stop beating. A heart attack is caused by a block in blood circulation.
Despite multiple tests, doctors never found a cause. They could say only that he maybe overexerted himself.
“They were thinking it was these two different diseases, but they tested me and nothing showed up,” Schmidt said. “They were just like, ‘We really have no idea what happened.’
“It was just a freak accident, one in a million.”
Doctors originally told the family that it could take four to six months before Schmidt returned to his normal self. Brain cells start dying after 5 minutes without oxygen, which would lead to brain damage that required intensive therapy. Instead, Schmidt woke up four days later and tried to speak through a breathing tube lodged in his throat.
“His memory wasn’t the greatest when he woke up, but he was pretty much back to normal right when he woke up,” Larison said. “He was cracking jokes right off the bat.”
Schmidt spent nine days in the hospital undergoing a battery of mental exercises, matching cards and placing an object through one hoop and then the next. As he passed those, surgeons then installed a defibrillator on the left side of his chest that will restart his heart if it ever stops again.
“They really thought my brain wasn’t going to be the same,” Schmidt said. “They thought my brain was going to have to go through tons and tons of therapy. They thought it was a big old miracle that right when I woke up, I was pretty much the same.”
After the stitches healed and he passed a heartbeat test a month later, doctors cleared him to return to exercise.
His first mission?
“I went off a big old rope swing in Emmett,” Schmidt said.
BASEBALL AS AN OUTLET
Schmidt’s favorite sport, football, remained out of the question. Even with extra padding, a well-placed hit could damage the defibrillator and leave Schmidt vulnerable.
Schmidt called that news a devastating blow. The Falcons’ center would eat, breathe and live for football. Larison, Vallivue’s quarterback and the 4A All-Idaho Player of the Year, wrote Schmidt’s name on his cleats and arms before every game as a tribute.
But instead of sulking, Schmidt turned his attention to the baseball diamond.
“Kids nowadays usually make that decision of, ‘I’m not going to do anything,’ ” Vallivue baseball coach Justin Schneidt said. “He chose to persevere over it, step out of his comfort zone and get back to doing some of the things he used to do.”
Schmidt threw himself into baseball last spring, dedicating himself to the sport from February through the American Legion season in July. He fills a depth role for the Falcons’ varsity team this season, serving as a speedy pinch runner, a backup first baseman and a versatile player who can plug several holes.
Any senior would prefer a bigger role. But the sport allows Schmidt to get back to normal. All of his athleticism has returned. And between the lines, his near-death experience doesn’t matter, and his teammates treat him like another one of the guys, just the way he likes it.
“It gives me a good feeling when I can come out here and play with all of my buddies, my longtime buddies that I’ve been playing with since I was little,” Schmidt said. “I feel like if they took all that away from me, I wouldn’t be the same again.”
Vallivue’s senior night came and went with no mention of Schmidt’s poolside scare. Schmidt, who plans to study business in the fall at Boise State, said that he has no memory of the incident and that it hasn’t changed his outlook on life.
But Larison, who grew up with Schmidt just a pasture away, quickly corrects him.
“He thinks he’s invincible now,” Larison jokes.
Schmidt can only shake his head, smile and agree.