Defibrillators Given School Where Athlete Died - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

03/14/05

Defibrillators Given School Where Athlete Died

When someone mentions heart trouble, we often think of the elderly. But in some cases, it could just as easily be a child or teen.

Derrick Plankenhorn was a senior at Southeast Bulloch High when he died from heart trouble. Billie Jean Plankenhorn knows the exact spot her son collapsed. A small memorial sits in turn two of the track at the school.

"His heart just quit beating and instead of catching on the next beat, it never did and he was gone," she said.

A senior who ran track and played football, he wore number 53 on the gridiron. "It was something I'd never anticipated doing, losing a child, especially an athletic child in good health," Billie Jean said.

Derrick was out on the track getting ready for the track season when he collapsed and died. The very next morning, a teenager in north Georgia died the exact same way.

Since then, the Plankenhorns have lobbied the school to buy a defibrillator, a handheld device that delivers an electrical shock to restart a heart while medical help is on the way.

"EMS is about ten minutes away from Brooklet and you're supposed to defibrillate a victim in three minutes," explained the school's nurse, Gloria Anderson, RN.

Since every second counts, supporters raised enough money to buy two defibrillators and keep them on opposite sides of campus.

"It really helps us to help keep Derrick alive in the thoughts and hearts of other people," said Billie Jean.

With the equipment bought in his memory, Derrick could save those hearts as well.

In addition to a local hospital grant, Southeast Bulloch raised the money at a turkey dinner during football season.

Billie Jean says they want to thank the opposing team that night, Savannah Christian. Their fans came hours early and bought dinners to support the cause.

Reported by: Dal Cannady, dcannady@wtoc.com

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