SUTTON, Mass. - In 2010, 16-year-old Michael Ellsessar's death on the football field prompted changes to bring safety closer to the sidelines. Now, his father believes the conversation on ensuring athletes are given the best chance of survival and recovery in a cardiac emergency has reached its widest audience yet. 

What You Need To Know

  • The father of a Massachusetts high school football player who died on the field believes more people are learning about the importance of CPR and AED use
  • 16-year-old Michael Ellsessar passed away in November 2010 at Quaboag High School

  • Five years later, Michael's younger brother Tim passed away at 18, also from a cardiac event 

  • Their parents have advocated for changes at the state level, resulting in the 2012 signing of 'Michael's Law'

Ellsessar, an athlete on the Oxford High School football team, passed away on November 15, 2010 after going into cardiac arrest during a game. 

"He was on the field in cardiac arrest, they were performing CPR, they called 911," said his father John Ellsessar. "There was no ambulance or AED at the field, and it took 15 minutes for the squad to arrive. So he passed on the football field that day back in 2010."

Five years later, Michael's younger brother Tim passed away at 18, also from a cardiac event. John and his wife Luann have made it their mission to raise awareness on heart health and safety, and their advocacy has brought lifesaving changes to the sidelines. 

"Michael's Law mandated that if your school had an AED, it should no longer be locked up in the nurses' office where it was useless," Ellsessar said. "They need to be out where the people are. My wife and I advocate for CPR training and AED use, as a matter of fact my wonderful wife was at work teaching a CPR and AED course yesterday."

According to the CDC, somewhere between 70 and 90% of people who go into cardiac arrest die before they reach a hospital, often because those around them don't know what to do. 

Ellsessar was watching Monday night when Buffalo Bills player Damar Hamlin suffered cardiac arrest, and said he's praying for his full recovery. In the days since, he's never seen so many conversations on sudden cardiac arrest brought to the forefront. 

"The last two days, you're hearing people talk about it, you're hearing doctors talk about it, it's getting the attention," Ellsessar said. "I've been championing this cause since Mike passed, but its already surpassed anything I was able to do. AEDs are about $1,000. That's not very expensive when you think about how many lives it can save."

Ellsessar hopes those conversations continue bringing nationwide focus to an issue hitting close to home. He'd also like to see more money go toward ensuring athletic events, concerts and other public gatherings are equipped to handle a cardiac emergency.