THE WOODLANDS - A 16-year-old Houston area Volleyball player collapses in sudden cardiac arrest. Her teammates and perfect strangers then come to her family's rescue in an amazing example of Positively Houston.
Julieta Valdes, 16, had been an athlete doing regular workouts since she was nine-years-old. When the freshman Varsity Volleyball player collapsed simply doing pushups everyone knew something was seriously wrong.
"I was on the ground without a pulse for about 20 something minutes,” explains Julieta who was without a pulse for 23 minutes.
First her mom and sister gave her CPR, then paramedics worked to revive her at her home on May 3, 2020 after The Woodlands High School volleyball player suffered sudden cardiac arrest.
"All of a sudden I stood up and just fell right back,” explains the teen.
“But she's, according to the doctors a walking miracle,” says Julieta's Dad Francisco Valdes.
As the teen struggled to survive in ICU in an induced coma, her siblings and parents prayed by her side and her volleyball family did the rest.
"Our first thought was hospital bills. How can we help out? So we started a GoFundMe,” says Stephanie Rhoades Director of Houston Juniors Volleyball Club. They raised more than $50,000 but the group didn't stop there. They regularly brought food to the family and flooded Julieta's room with balloons and cards.
”Telling her they were praying for her and really rooting for her,” says Terri Wade The Woodlands High School Volleyball Coach.
”It was a breath of fresh air to have that happening at the same time Julieta was fighting for her life in the hospital and you get that outpouring of love and prayers,” Julieta's dad explains.
"It was absolutely amazing. I never knew how loved I was,” adds Julieta who had to undergo extensive rehab to learn to walk again and she had surgery. "They implanted a little device called an ICD which you can kind of feel. It's right here,” Julieta points to her upper chest. The Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator will shock her heart into beating again if an arrhythmia once again causes it to stop.
After several weeks the teen has now been released to go home.
"The whole volleyball program lined up down the road to see her just drive through even though we couldn't go talk to her. Everybody was cheering her on,” says Coach Wade.
"I recently got cleared to be able to lift my arms again. So I finally got to pick up a ball and just hit it against my garage door,” says Julieta.
“More than 90% of the people that go through this do not make it afterwards. They do not survive,” adds her dad.
"For me what mostly helped me out was believing everything happens for a reason,” says Julieta.
"I believe God has a plan and at the end of the day I was just very grateful that his plan was to allow Julieta to stay with us,” smiles Rhoades.
Julieta is expected to find out this week if she can play sports again. She's working on a website for heart health awareness and partnering with the American Heart Association.
The 16-year-old says she wants "to be someone's flashlight in a dark situation just like so many others were for me".