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High school tennis player’s life saved by fast action on the court, outstanding trauma care at Beacon

Credit: Laura Ault Photography

Drew Strasser, a healthy, athletic high school senior, was at tennis practice at his high school when he collapsed, no longer breathing.

Practice had been indoors that day, a small detail that may well have saved Drew’s life. That’s because his school had an automated external defibrillator (AED) located less than 10 feet from where he collapsed. His coach rushed to get the AED while Drew’s teammate and friend Jake administered CPR.

Drew was soon taken to the trauma center at Beacon Memorial Hospital, about an hour away. His parents and two sisters rushed to be with him at the hospital, where they learned that Drew had experienced a sudden cardiac arrest.

Memorial’s trauma team was able to stabilize him and prepare him to be transported to a hospital with more advanced pediatric cardiology services. Every step of the way, Memorial’s care team explained to the Strassers the lifesaving care being provided to Drew, patiently answered their questions and provided reassurance.

“They had to work hard to keep my son alive,” said Laneia Strasser, Drew’s mom. “We live in a rural area, and to get such top-of the line care for your kid in a catastrophic situation—you’re just thankful that’s available where you live.”

On the road

Behind the scenes of a traumatic emergency, Beacon’s care teams are in constant communication with one another, including the transport team for patients who need further care in a hospital with different capabilities.

Memorial’s transport team has two options for moving patients like Drew: air transport via the MedFlight helicopter, or ground transport by ambulance. Air transport is much faster, but the safety of this option depends on weather conditions along the route.

Memorial’s highly trained transport team doesn’t just monitor patients en route. They’re equipped to provide complex care, including ultrasound imaging, key lab tests and blood transfusions.

“Our flight crew is at the pinnacle of their career. They bring a lot of expertise and experience to what they do,” said Steven Shedd, director of the Transfer Center, Ground Transport and MedFlight. “Our MedFlight teams have the ability to get on an ambulance if they need to. They’re our most versatile team.”

Each team includes the pilot, a paramedic and a transport nurse. Nearly a third of their patients require trauma care.

Stacey Laubach has been a nurse for 30 years and has been working on flight transports for more than 20 years. “We’re just trying to make a difference for people,” she said. “We really look at every person like they’re family and want what’s best for them.”

A bright future

The skies were foggy the day Drew collapsed, so he was taken to another hospital by ambulance. Even after he was transferred, Memorial’s emergency physician, Dr. David Halperin, stayed in touch with the Strassers until it was clear that he would recover. “It was such an awesome gesture and very kind of him,” Laneia said.

Drew has had no further problems since leaving the hospital two years ago, although he sees a cardiologist every six months as a precaution. Before graduating high school, he was even able to play tennis in the final match of the season—with the friend who helped save his life with CPR.

“We’re just super thankful that he got the best care possible,” Laneia said. “The nurses and entire care team are definitely heroes.”

For much more about Drew Strasser, the people who saved his life and those who cared for him, click here to read the national TODAY story published in October 2022.


When a medical emergency strikes, Beacon is prepared to give you the help you need. Memorial Leighton Trauma Center is the region’s only verified Level II Trauma Center. It also works with MedFlight, the only medical flight service in Michiana. Elkhart General Hospital is a Level III Trauma Center designation by the American College of Surgeons. Learn more about our Beacon trauma teams and their capabilities.