Student Survives Death


On January 19th, a thirteen year old boy collapsed among his classmates at Danny Jones, and fell completely unresponsive. He was considered dead for five minutes. Eighth grader Jeffrey Cotton remained unconscious while his coaches rushed to save his life.

As a middle school coach, the last thing any coach expects is to witness one of their young and talented players drop on the field from heart complications. After the simple act of throwing a football, Jeffrey Cotton’s heart stopped, from a condition of an enlarged heart.

Danny Jones speech teacher and football coach, Stephen Varcardipone, witnessed the health complication first-hand while supervising an athletics class that fateful Friday afternoon. While it isn’t a rare occurrence for students to trip and fall while playing on the field, Varcardipone explains that from the first moment coaches saw Jeffrey, it was evident that this was much more that a tumble on the turf.

“Coach Alsup, Coach Sawyer, and I noticed that there was a young man who had fallen on the ground, which isn’t uncommon, but he wasn’t getting up. Coach Alsup ran over and instantly recognized that something was wrong, and that Jeffrey was not breathing,” said Varcardipone.

It was a combination of the efforts made by all coaches, including Shawn Alsup, that made saving Jeffrey’s life possible. This near-tragic experience went beyond a coach trying to save his player. It ┬ábecame a father working frantically to save someone else’s child. Besides the skills acquired from trainings coaches undergo for emergency situations like this, instincts coming from being a parent himself helped Alsup to save Cotton’s life during this.

“It seemed like an eternity, but in reality from the time that I saw him to the time he was in the ambulance was a short amount of time, but a surreal moment. It’s like you’re watching a movie, and now you’re in the movie. The first thought that ran through my head, as a parent, the coach part of it went out the window. I was thinking ‘we have a boy on the ground, who is somebody’s son’. I know that I look forward everyday to coming home to my daughters, and I did everything in my power to make sure Jeffrey would go home to see his parents,” said Alsup.

Photographed by Mr. Newhouse
Jeffrey Cotton (#21) on the field with teammates during a game.

Due to his heart condition, Cotton’s athletic participation has been limited, and in some cases, not possible. The thirteen-year old track and football star will no longer be able to take part in these sports. However, Cotton remains optimistic about the further opportunities presented by this obstacle, that he had been completely unaware of before.

“The doctors told me I couldn’t play anymore sports, but I believe this is an opportunity to do better in academics,” said Cotton.

The nurses, coaches, and students present at Danny Jones middle school made saving Jeffrey Cotton’s life a possibility. An experience that could have very quickly become a tragedy, became a tale of heroism. Though Cotton’s health trauma was an unusual circumstances, there are very few thirteen-year olds able to tell a story of coming back to life again.