Drew Keeps On Saving Lives Through His Gift

READ THE WHOLE STORY HERE

KOMO NEWS

Seven months ago, life stopped for a 17-year-old high school football player from Spokane.

Drew Swank took a blow to the head during a football game, and never woke up.

“It was a really hard hit,” said father Don Swank.

“He just said, ‘My head hurts,'” said mother Patti Swank. “And his dad was trying to take his helmet off, and he said, ‘Dad, don’t take my helmet off. I’m going to throw up.’ And that was it. He collapsed.

“They tried everything they could, but they couldn’t …”

Drew Swank’s death in Spokane had a far-reaching effect. Some 350 miles away in Yelm, Lee Blumenthal got a second chance at life. He’s the recipient of the teen’s heart.

“I’d like to meet his family someday so they can feel my chest, feel his heart, know he’s still alive in me,” said Blumenthal.

Before the transplant, a mechanical heart kept Blumethal alive. Now, he stops several times every day to think about the boy who brought him back to life, and gave his three sons a father.

“I’d tell him I love him. ‘Thank you for the heart,'” the recipient said.

The story of the teen’s sudden death resonated all the way in the Fletcher family’s home in Port Angeles.

“I couldn’t quit reading this story,” said Teres Fletcher, a mother who has a son about Drew Swank’s age.

Fletcher said she was reading an article on Drew Swank when the phone rang. The very boy she was reading about was also going to be her son’s savior.

Austin Fletcher spent two years on the liver transplant wait list before he received Drew Swank’s.

“It means life. I got a second chance at life,” said the boy.

“I say our kids, Austin and Drew, knew each other in heaven, and Drew said, ‘I’ve got your back, Austin.’ And he did. He really came through for him,” said Teres Fletcher.

“He (Drew Swank) was kind of like me, played in the dirt a lot, just a sweet boy,” said Austin Fletcher.

“I wanted to be able to say thank you,” Teres Fletcher said.

Drew Swank would have turned 18 on May 4.

The Fletcher family drove eight hours to Spokane to help the Swank family celebrate their son’s life, and his gifts of life.

For the teen’s grieving sisters, the meeting with Austin Fletcher was a blessing their brother left behind.

“I just stare at him and get tears in my eyes, because I know that there’s a part of my brother inside of him that’s making him live a fulfilled life. It’s incredible,” said Tara Swank.

“We all look forward to the day we can be with Drew,” said Drew Swank’s sister, Nicole Albright. “Drew, we love you and you will always be in our hearts.”

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Drew’s Life Saved Others: A Must See

You have to see this.  Once you do you will know what an incredible person Drew was an what an incredible family the Swank’s are.  This is one of the most moving pieces of film I have seen in many years.  So be ready!  Sally Showman is amazing… just amazing!

Drew’s Gift Saved Lives

Sally Showman | KXLY4 Reporter

See the Video and the whole Story Here


SPOKANE — Seven months ago Drew Swank, a 17-year-old football player from Hauser Lake, died suddenly and unexpectedly. But in his death he passed the gift of life on to others.

“He had a tender heart, he had a very tender heart towards others and he would have wanted to do it, no doubt,” Patti said.

Once the doctors declared Drew brain dead they approached the family about organ donation.

“The doctor said Drew was like a rock star from the neck down,” Drew’s dad Don Swank said.

Five months before his death, Drew brought organ donation up while he was driving to school with his mom.

“I thought it was out of the blue that he just brought it up, we weren’t talking about it, he just asked the question,” recalls Patti.

When Drew passed away his story resonated far beyond the Inland Northwest. His story struck a chord with Port Angeles resident Teresa Fletcher, who is a mother of two kids.

“I couldn’t quit reading this story. I couldn’t quit looking at his picture.” Fletcher said. “I really just looked over that story and thought, you know I’ve got a son just about the same age.”

Fletcher didn’t know at the time that the boy she was reading about in the news is the same boy that would save her 15-year-old son Austin. Austin had battled Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, a liver disease, for years. While his mom was reading the article about Drew Swank Austin’s transplant coordinator called to tell him she had found a perfect match for him.

The transplant was a success and Austin says his new liver brought him back to being a normal 15-year-old boy.

“It means life, I got a second chance at life,” he said.

Austin has never been able to play baseball until this year. His jersey number is 15; coincidentally Drew Swank’s jersey number was also 15.

“He was kind of like me, he played in the dirt a lot, just a sweet boy,” Austin said.

The Fletchers live in Port Angeles so part of Drew is now home in a town with a name that means Port of the Angels. Teresa Fletcher has made sweatshirts with Drew’s face on the front as a way of showing her son’s angel’s face to the world.

“I wanted to be able to say thank you,” Teresa explained.

The Fletchers and the Swanks are family now with a bond that goes beyond DNA.

“Austin warms our heart, lifts our spirits, just how he’s doing, we get little updates,” Patti Swank said.

Although they’ve never met the two families have exchanged emails, calls and homemade video tapes of their sons.

“I heard lots of stories, my favorite story of him, on Valentines Day he bought all the girls in his classroom flowers so nobody would feel left out,” Teresa Fletcher said.

“Not only would Drew help another kid up when he got tackled by another kid or after he tackled a kid, he’d pat them on the back. He didn’t learn that from me, he did it from his own heart,” Don Swank said.

If there’s anyone that knows about Drew’s heart it would be Lee Blumenthal. Lee knows more about Drew’s heart than anyone and he never got the chance to meet him.

“I’d like to meet his family someday, so they can feel my chest, feel his heart, know he’s still alive in me,” says Blumenthal, who received Drew’s heart.

Before he received the organ transplant a mechanical heart was keeping Lee alive. Cindy Cline, Lee’s sister, says she was preparing herself for the worst.

“I knew that it was coming to an end. I just knew it was coming close to him not being here,” Cindy said as she fought back to the tears.

“A year ago, I couldn’t get off the couch, walking to the door was exhausting. Today I can run and jump and play with my kids,” Lee said.

Blumenthal has three sons ages 21, 19 and his youngest is just a few months older than Drew was.

“They’re excited. I keep bragging that I have a younger heart than they do,” Blumenthal joked.

Several times every day he stops to think about the boy who brought him back to life and gave his sons a father.

“I talk to him in prayer. I tell him I love him, thank you for the heart,” Blumenthal said.

Drew’s parents find solace in the lives their son has changed. In all eight people including Austin Fletcher and Lee Blumenthal are alive because of Swank’s sacrifice.

“We’re very, very happy that God could use our son to help them and prolong their lives,” Patti said. “The worst day of your life is the best day of their life and it’s true, but we’re happy and we’re thankful that our son could help them.”

The Swanks say they have found peace knowing that their son is in heaven.

“I know that’s where my son is, he’s home and we’re going to be home with him someday too,” Patti said.

Swank, a football player with Valley Christian, took a blow to the head during a game in September and never woke up.

“He just said my head hurts and his dad was trying to take his helmet off and he said, ‘Dad don’t take my helmet off, I’m going to throw up. That was it, he collapsed,” his mom Patti Swank said.

But Drew’s story didn’t end with his death.

USA Football Develops Youth Coaches Curriculum for Concussion Prevention

Well I must say…..  this is a long over do but welcome development.  The USA Football Group who works with the NFL to provide training and education among other things added a new section to their education videos on Concussion Prevention.  That is a welcome development.  It is to Bad they are having to charge $25 per person for this.  The NFL needs to step up and take care of this cost.  They make billions of dollars of profit each year and it is not really a great help that they are not paying for this and taking more of a leadership role.  This is something the Center for Disease Control should be offering for free.    So this is not really a big deal but another tool that should be mandatory for all coaches to use.

Is USA Football Doing Enough or Should the NFL Pay for this?

Here is an excerpt:

“USA Football, the sport’s national governing body on youth and amateur levels, has further strengthened its tackle and flag football coaching education courses with new material covering concussion, hydration and proper equipment fitting.

USA Football created new coaching chapters with leading medical professionals and organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

By the start of the 2010 football season, USA Football will have helped educate more than 50,000 youth coaches spanning all 50 states through its online courses and full-day coaching schools conducted across the country. Approximately 415,000 football coaches serve the 3.0 million youngsters who play youth tackle football in the United States. An additional 1.14 million high school boys play football, more than doubling the next-played sport by that group according to the National Federation of State High School Athletic Associations.

USA Football’s flag coaching course is comprised of eight chapters and takes approximately an hour to complete. The tackle course covers 15 chapters and is completed in approximately two hours. Both courses include four videos covering (1) concussion awareness and management; (2) heat and hydration preparedness; (3) helmet fitting; and (4) shoulder pad fitting.

Quizzes are administered following each chapter to foster comprehension. A cumulative chapter quiz score of 80% is needed to successfully complete both courses.

USA Football’s concussion education and management chapter consists of an 11-minute video featuring USA Football Board Member and former NFL running back Merril Hoge and Dr. Stanley Herring. Herring is the medical director of the Spine Center at Harborview Medical Center in Washington State and is a clinical professor at the University of Washington. He also serves on the independent non-profit’s Football and Wellness Committee. USA Football concussion education and management content is also formed in conjunction with the CDC. CDC concussion information is distributed at USA Football’s training events conducted nationwide for coaches, players and youth league commissioners.

“Youth football participation today is higher than it has ever been and USA Football’s coaching courses make the sport better and safer,” Dr. Herring said. “Player health – particularly on matters of concussion – is rightfully commanding attention in every youth sport. With USA Football’s leadership, football coaches are well prepared to monitor their players and know what to do when a young athlete’s well-being is in question.”

Chris Nowinski and Crew Do it Again

Chris Nowinski and Ted Johnson Testify in Bostson

Drew’s Team is supported by some great people.  Chris Nowinski, Harvard Grad and Athlete, is one of them.  Here he is with NFL great Ted Johnson in Boston this week trying to get a law passed to protect kids.  The law would mirror the Lystedt Act in Washington State.  Chris is coming off a great week last week in which the NFL donated $1 Million dollars to Boston Medical University Brain Research Center.  Chris helped found that group and is on their Board.  There was much discussion about Second Impact Syndrome this week as well.  It is NIce to know that Drew’s Team is supported by such pioneers and activists at these.  Keep up the good work Chris!

AD’s Testify that ImPACT Works As a Tool

Here is an excerpt from the Sun Chronicle which outlines the new Bill that is being pushed through the Massachusetts Legislature with the hope of protecting football players and athletes this year.’

Some of that testimony is coming from our own Chris Nowinski of the Sports Legacy Institute.  He is once again taking the Brain Trauma battle lead and along with NFL Great Ted Johnson gave some convincing testimony.

Here is an important excerpt from the story regarding ImPACT Concussion Testing.  This is the same sort of response we have heard from many other Athletic Directors.  It is all 100% positive.

“Kurt Kummer, athletic director at North Attleboro High School, said his school is already on top of monitoring head injuries and making sure athletes are symptom-free before they return to the field.

He pointed to the school’s use of ImPACT testing, a computer program that first establishes a base line for athletes’ brain activity, then measures it again after a suspected head trauma.

The athlete is not cleared to play again until he or she again measures a baseline score on the computer test.

Kummer said the school’s diligence toward dealing with head injuries has already paid dividends, showing that some athletes who appeared fine were not actually ready to return to the field.

“I think we’ve caught a lot of kids who had lingering effects,” he said.

Mike Redding, who coaches football and girls’ basketball at Mansfield High School, said there has been a greater emphasis on spotting and correctly dealing with head injuries over the past several years, as coaches and trainers learn more about the dangers of the injuries.

“We don’t want anyone leaving high school with the long-term effects of any injury,” he said. While he said schools in the area have already begun to address the issues related to concussions, Redding said the proposed law might help keep athletes around the state safer.”

Read The Rest of The Story Here

STOP Another Organization Leading the Way in Education

Drew’s Team Supports the STOP Campaign in California

We encourage this type of program

News Release

Date: April 27, 2010

Preventing Young Athletes from Striking Out Too Early

Sports injury campaign focuses on helping kids play safe and stay healthy

UC San Diego Health System has teamed up with the country’s leading sports medicine organizations and medical societies, along with professional athletes and business leaders, to participate in the STOP Sports Injuries campaign.

“Sports injuries at any age should not be taken lightly,” said Raul Coimbra, MD, PhD, FACS, chief of Trauma, Surgical Critical Care and Burns and Monroe E. Trout Professor of Surgery at UC San Diego Health System. “Any change in a young athlete’s behavior, vision, cognition, speech, or level of consciousness should set off an alarm bell and be addressed by a physician immediately.”

The STOP campaign will educate athletes, parents, trainers, coaches and health care providers about the rapid increase in youth sports injuries, the necessary steps to help reverse the trend, and the need to keep young athletes healthy. The STOP Sports Injuries campaign focuses on teaching proper prevention techniques and encouraging open communication between everyone involved in a young athlete’s life.

Sports injuries among young athletes are on the rise, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which estimates that high school athletes account for two million injuries, 500,000 doctor visits, and 30,000 hospitalizations every year.  In younger children, typical injuries include bumps, bruises, strains, sprains and fractures, especially in the wrist and elbow.

“In teens we see more adult-like injuries such as anterior cruciate ligament tears and torn-cartilage in the knees, and shoulder dislocations,” said Catherine Robertson, MD, assistant clinical professor in the department of Orthopedic Surgery and Sports Medicine at UC San Diego Health System. “These types of injuries may require surgery, take much longer to heal, and can have long-term consequences.”

The high rate of youth sports injuries is fueled by an increase in overuse and trauma injuries and a lack of attention paid to proper injury prevention. According to the CDC, more than half of all sports injuries in children are preventable.

“In collegiate and professional baseball, pitch counts are highly regulated, but in youth leagues, this is often not the case,” said Robertson. “Young pitchers tend to get overuse injuries in their elbows and shoulders because no one is monitoring the amount of time they spend pitching or aware that there are pitch count restrictions.”

Sports concussions are especially problematic in those under 18 years of age because of “second-hit” or “second-impact” syndrome. If an athlete returns to play too soon and has not allowed the brain to fully heal, then a second blow to the head could result in a life-threatening situation.

The trauma division at UC San Diego Health System is working with the San Diego County Regional Trauma System’s Trauma Research & Education Foundation (TREF) to distribute concussion tool kits, entitled Head’s Up – Concussion in High School Sports to North County Inland high school coaches. They will then follow-up to learn if the coaches found the kits helpful and how they used them.

Parents, coaches and trainers should utilize Internet resources, such as aclprevent.com, STOPSportsInjuries.org, and http://cdc.gov/concussion/HeadsUp/youth.html to learn more about how to prevent injuries in young athletes.