Following son’s death on lacrosse field, Long Island family has made sure AEDs are in schools and on sidelines

Featured on One Nation with Brian Kilmead
January 19, 2023
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January 19, 2023

Article Courtesy of CBS New York – BY JENNIFER MCLOGAN  / CBS NEW YORK


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NORTHPORT, N.Y. — The momentum continues to build for Damar Hamlin, two weeks after he suffered cardiac arrest on the football field.

An automated external defibrillator was used to save his life. AEDs gained prominence 23 years ago, thanks to one Long Island family pushing to have them in schools and on sidelines.

America watched as Hamlin’s life hung in the balance after he was hurt during the Monday Night Football game between his Buffalo Bills and the Cincinnati Bengals back on Jan. 2.

“This is exactly what happened to Louis,” John Acompora said.

“Thinking about [Hamlin’s] mom and dad in the stands and how we felt,” Karen Acompora said.

It was a surreal moment going back two decades for the Acomporas of Northport. They, too, were in the stands when their 14-year-old son, Louis, a goalie, collapsed after taking a lacrosse ball to the chest.

“You just think, well, they are going to get up. You don’t think, you know, that they are laying there dying,” Karen Acompora said.

They cheered on the story book ending for Hamlin and reflected on what might have been for Louis.

“Captain of every team he was ever on, honor roll student, and he could have brought so much good to this world,” John Acompora said.

READ MOREHow CPR & AED made all the difference for Damar Hamlin

Karen Acompora said of all the what-ifs, she said her son would be alive if there was an AED at the field.

Since that day 23 years ago, the Acomporas have embarked on a mission.

“They did do CPR on Louis, but EMS did not arrive for 15 minutes,” Karen Acompora said.

“The only definitive treatment for a sudden cardiac death is defibrillation,” cardiologist Dr. Nidhi Kumar said.

Kumar says for every minute that passes without defibrillation, chances of survival drop 10%.

“The police arrived, but they did not have an AED in the car, either,” Karen Acompora said.

The Acomporas lobbied Albany and within a year it all first responders were required to have an AED.

Next, the family got the ear of then-Gov. George Pataki, who signed Louis’ Law, making it mandatory for every school and field in New York state to have an AED on the premises.

“And here we are at 110 lives saved in New York state schools, many of them athletes, young athletes. We know we are doing the right thing,” Karen Acompora said.

These days, the Acomporas travel the country with Parent Heart Watch and the Louis Acompora Foundation. Their goal to get defibrillators in every school across America.

Doctors say a heart concussion, which happens to at least 10 young athletes a year, is what happened to Louis. Commotio cordis — commotion of the heart — caused by a chest blow can be saved with an AED.

“We spend billions of dollars every year on youth athletics. I think we can throw some money towards safety,” Kumar said.

“People will be saved with CPR and a defibrillator in years to come and never heard the name Louis Acompora, so that’s a real legacy,” John Acompora said.

The Acompora family has turned pain into a passion.