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West HS junior fights for life after heart issue

Posted: 5:21 PM, Apr 25, 2016
Updated: 2016-04-26 00:23:54Z

When you are 16 going on 17, a severe heart issue might be one of the last things on your mind. But for West High School junior Sierra Gabbert, it became a reality.

"For me, any time this kind of stuff happens, it's so sad because she's young and she has so much life ahead of her," said Terrie Bernardin, principal of West High School.  

Friends say Gabbert suffered a heart attack Thursday and has been revived twice after flatlining. They say she now remains in critical condition at LA Children's Hospital.
 
Gabbert is a standout athlete at West High and her condition caused softball teammates to question whether they should play last Friday, just a day after finding out what happened. 
 
"They decided as a team that they would rather do what Sierra like most, which was play softball, so they played the game and kind of dedicated the game to her," said Bernardin.
 
It was a game where the final score mattered less than it ever has.
 
"The kids played with so much spirit," Bernardin said.
 
"The Viking pride was just shining through in that game. And then at the end of the game, they let some balloons go just saying to Sierra, we're here for you and we're thinking of you."
 
While friends have said Gabbert suffered a heart attack, Dr. Jared Salvo, a cardiac electrophysiologist for the Central Cardiology Medical Clinic, says due to Gabbert's age, it more likely was sudden cardiac arrest. 
 
"It's electrical death of the heart, not a blocked artery or a blood clot."
 
Dr. Salvo says that Gabbert being an athlete could have caused the unexpected issue.
 
"Athletes are asked to do things on a daily basis that none of us ask of our hearts," said Dr. Salvo.
 
"And so we may have the same problems that they do in terms of inheritance and congenital problems but because they are performing at a higher level, they are more prone to having these things be symptomatic and potentially lethal."
 
Dr. Salvo suggests parents with athletes check their family history and have their children tested with an EKG.
 
Friends of Gabbert has set up gofundme accounts to help with medical expenses. You can click on the links below: