Defibrillator dedicated to Foss High teen who died of sudden cardiac arrest in 2005

Tamela McBride displays a picture Monday at Foss High School of daughter, Keaundri "Kiki" McBride.
Tamela McBride displays a picture Monday at Foss High School of daughter, Keaundri "Kiki" McBride. Courtesy

Keaundri “Kiki” McBride was memorialized Monday outside the gymnasium at Foss High School where she died nearly 12 years ago.

In a ceremony attended by family, coaches, volunteers and loved ones, an automated external defibrillator, meant to administer an electric shock to restart the heart, was dedicated to the former student.

“Our family was shocked and completely blindsided by losing her,” Kiki’s mother, Tamela McBride, said during the dedication. “Even 10 years later, it’s difficult to understand how this can happen to such an energetic, healthy young girl.”

The 14-year-old freshman collapsed Nov. 15, 2005, during basketball tryouts eight hours after a sports physical cleared her to play.

Coaches immediately tried CPR, but McBride had not responded to resuscitation attempts when an ambulance arrived 12 minutes later.

She died at Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital after suffering sudden cardiac arrest.

It’s impossible to know whether having a defibrillator on hand would have saved her daughter, but her chances of surviving would have increased dramatically had the device been used within three to five minutes, Tamela McBride said.

The automated defibrillator was put outside the Foss High gym in 2014 after the Puget Sound Heart Project donated enough devices for every Tacoma public high school, ensuring that anyone in the schools will be no more than two minutes from a defibrillator.

The nonprofit group — which works to eliminate deaths from sudden cardiac arrest — donated devices to every Tacoma middle school the next year.

So far, the group has spent $42,000 for 59 defibrillators

It hopes to have enough funds to do the same to buy 36 devices for the public elementary schools by the upcoming school year.

“It always seems to take a tragedy for people to open their eyes, or for awareness to come about in certain situations,” said Angela Taylor, president of the Puget Sound Heart Project.

She said that is especially true of sudden cardiac arrest, the No. 1 killer of young athletes.

Unknown to her or her family, Kiki had a birth defect, a coronary artery that didn’t enter her heart in the right place.

The defect is the second-most-common cause of sudden cardiac arrest in youths and often displays no symptoms before death, said Tamela McBride, who is a volunteer with Puget Sound Heart Project.

The only surefire way doctors could have detected Kiki’s heart defect was with an echocardiogram, a screening that can cost up to $900 and is far from routine for a seemingly healthy, athletic girl.

“When (Kiki’s father and I) would hear about kids dropping during athletic events, I would tell him, ‘Can you believe their parents allowed them to go out and play sports with a heart condition? I can’t believe how irresponsible that is,’” Tamela McBride said.

“I didn’t know your child can have a heart condition and not display any symptoms, and basically be a walking time bomb.”

The Puget Sound Heart Project’s next effort will be to initiate heart screenings for youths, Taylor said. Most heart defects can be detected by something as easy and inexpensive as an elektrocardiogram, she said.

Taylor said she hopes that’s something people who pass Kiki’s defibrillator and a nearby plaque in her honor will be more aware of in the future.

“As much of a tragedy and a loss it was, I think she continues to give back ten-fold,” said Michelle Birge, who was Kiki’s assistant basketball coach in 2005.

“Her light continues to shine.”

Hannah Shirley: 253-597-8670, @itshannah7