Swim Coach Saves 16-Year-Old Teen Having A Heart Attack While In Pool

Candy Johansen

Claire Luning, a 16-year old swimmer on the Walter Payton-Jones College Prep swim team suffered a heart attack while swimming with her team in the pool while practicing on a relay.

Claire Luning's swim coach, Mac Varilla, saved Luning's life by giving her CPR after she was pulled from the pool, unresponsive and not breathing.

"I noticed the signs of life were not there, like no breathing, no pulse, her eyes were wide open -- that's when I knew this was a big emergency," said Varilla.

After finishing the butterfly leg of the relay, Luning was hanging onto the rope while having the heart attack.

"It felt like I couldn't breathe, that I was not taking in enough oxygen and I started to panic but I kept going for some reason but it kind of went fuzzy," Luning said.

Luning was found to have Long QT Syndrome (a disorder that often causes chaotic hearts) when she was examined at Lurie children's hospital. She currently wears a sling to keep the defibrillator from moving.

Claire has decided to use the bad experice of the heart attack to help other people who may be having a heart attack by learning CPR.

"I think maybe my experience has made it more real, that this really does happen and maybe not to somebody you know, maybe somebody on the street will just collapse -- you want to know what to do so you are not helpless to that situation," Luning said

Luning's cardiologist said that they would've know about Luning's condition if she would've had a electro cardiogram (EKG).

According to the Oakbrook Terrace-based Midwest Heart Foundation, more than 7,000 children die of sudden cardiac arrest every year but most children are never screened for heart risks during routine physicals.

Do you know the symptoms of a heart attack?

Here are the most common ones:

* Chest discomfort -- the majority of heart attacks involve pain in the chest that lasts more than a few minutes or comes and goes. It can feel like pressure, pain or some squeezing your chest.

*Discomfort in other areas of the upper body -- the pain can be in upper body areas that include the jaw, stomach, neck, back or either arm.

*Shortness of breath -- with or without chest pain.

*Breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.

Most heart attacks start slow, with mild pain or discomfort. Don't ignore these signs of a possible heart attack.

[Image via shutterstock]