Gracie Firestone, Tower Hill 2011, Survivor of Sudden Cardiac Arrest
Grace Firestone, Tower Hill School, 2011, was selected as a 2012 recipient of the “National High School Spirit of Sport Award” by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS).
The National High School Spirit of Sport Award was created to recognize those individuals who exemplify the ideals of the spirit of sport that represent the core mission of education-based athletics. Grace - one of eight recipients from across the country - was the winner of Section 2, which includes DE, Washington D.C, KY, MD, Ohio, PA, VA and WVA.
Additionally, in November of 2012, she was honored with the Youth in Philanthropy Award by the Brandywine Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals.
An elite high school athlete, Grace earned 15 varsity letters and garnered All-state honors in all of her three sports, including 1st Team All State soccer for 3 years. She was a 6-time sports captain and maintained a 3.93 GPA. She was student body president her senior year. She created a number of community service projects while in high school, including “Let the Kids Play,” which later would raise thousands of dollars for her adopted orphanage in Kenya.
On June 6, 2011, just two days after graduating from Tower Hill, Grace went to her mother’s room to say that she wasn’t feeling well. Seconds later she collapsed on the bed. Her heart stopped. Her mother immediately called 911. Her brother Grant administered CPR during the three minutes before the New Castle County (DE) EMS arrived. NCC Policeman Officer Justison was first on the scene, directing the incoming emergency personnel. (Officer Justison was later to visit Gracie in the hospital several times. The EMS team visited as well.)
Grace was paddled 6 times. The EMS team drilled into her shin (interosseous) to provide quicker IV access to the brain. Her heart stopped three times that night. On the way to Christiana Hospital she stopped breathing.
An hour later, in an ER room, a doctor gets on his knee in front of Gracie's family. "There's a good chance we will lose her". Gracie was put on a ventilator and an induced coma.
Ten days later Grace left Christiana with an implanted defibrillator (ICD). No permanent damage. She began walking and working out. She entered U of Delaware Honors in September 2011. The doctor who implanted the defib/pacemaker warned again engaging in contact sports. But these were the sports in which she thrived in high school. Gracie decided to live her own life.
After a few months of physical and cognitive rehabilitation, she felt more than ever that she needed to help others. “Once I realized I was OK, I was frustrated with people telling me I wasn’t OK,” she says. “That gave me the inspiration to do something drastic to show I was physically and mentally able.”
With the aid of US Sen Chris Coons and wife Annie, Grace created a fund raiser collecting $8,000.00 which eventually went to her adopted orphanage in Kenya. On Christmas Day 2012, Gracie left for Africa. She climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro. While in Africa, Grace visited the orphanage and played soccer with the kids.
At U of Delaware, she has played center mid position for UD Club Soccer. The team went to the national club soccer finals all 4 years.
Through the efforts of Gracie, State Sens. Cathy Cloutier, Bethany Hall-Long and Kevin Charles of the DIAA (DE Interscholastic Athletic Assoc.), the Grace Firestone SCA Awareness Act was passed in 2014.
Upon graduation, Grace entered The Sidney Kimmel Medical College (originally Jefferson Med). Presently Dr. Grace Firestone is interning at O’Connor Hospital at Stanford University.
In 2014, Governor Markell signed legislation that requires the Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association (“DIAA”) to draft regulations to identify symptoms and risk factors of sudden cardiac arrest in student athletes.
Learn more about this important legislation!