* Ruqayya Gibson and her late son, Damani, smile the day before his unexpecting passing
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On the early morning of March 12 in 2019, Ruqayya Gibson came home from coaching track and field practice at Cypress Springs High School.
Her 17-year-old son, Damani Gibson, had also just finished his morning practice and arrived home shortly thereafter, pulling into the driveway.
But in an instant, everything changed.
When Gibson didn't see her son come inside, she went to check on him and then shockingly discovered he was unresponsive. When Emergency Medical Services arrived, she soon learned he was in cardiac arrest. He died that morning.
Gibson still remembers the day as if it was yesterday.
She can recall that he never had any symptoms, nor any warnings. For several months, she questioned her purpose as her son was no longer with her. Her son's passing encouraged her to do more research on sudden cardiac arrests.
According to the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation, there are more than 356,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests (OHCA) annually in the U.S. and nearly 90-percent of them are fatal.
In a recent report from 2020, roughly 7,000 of those deaths impact children. That fact was shocking to Gibson.
"This thing that you feel is so rare... you find out it's not rare at all," she said. "It's just not talked about enough. This is why I'm using my voice and platform to talk about it."
This is the reason she founded the Damani Gibson Foundation on October 2019.
"I speak up because I don't want any other mother to bury her child. I don't want anyone else to go through this pain. If my story, it's painful for me to share it, can save someone's life, then this is what I need to do"
- Coach Ruqayya Gibson
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Over the last several months, Gibson on behalf of the Damani Gibson Foundation has been able to visit schools across the state of Texas to educate runners and athletes on the topic of sudden cardiac arrest.
Gibson shared that in cross country, most athletes go out for their runs without a coach. So she often asks groups, If something was to happen to a teammate on a long run, would they know what to do? Or if they came back and their coach was going through sudden cardiac arrest, would they how to save a life?
Over the past two years, Gibson has sought to educate various programs about these life-saving techniques.
It's what Damani would have wanted, she says.
Mostly, though, Gibson says she wants to continue this educational piece so that someone can have the confidence to step in and make a difference the next time it happens.
Below, learn more about the foundation's long term goals.
* Coach Gibson meets with Summit's (TX) XC team on how to properly perform CPR and to go over team drills
* Denton Guyer's (TX) track team learned drills and CPR with the Damani Foundation
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The Damani Gibson Foundation has short term and long term goals:
- Bring awareness to our communities on sudden cardiac arrests
- Partner with high schools and summer track clubs to do virtual or in-person events for the Cardiac Arrest Project
- Continue to provide free heart screenings
- Educate students, coaches, and athletes on drills, including CPR, so they know what to do and how how to respond when this arises
- Have 7,000 participants in the virtual Race to End Sudden Cardiac Arrest on Oct. 24 in honor of the children who passed away from sudden cardiac arrest
- Change lives and save lives
- Do it For Damani Website
- Race to End Sudden Cardiac Arrest for Damani Gibson
- Do it For Damani Blog
- Ruqayya Gibson's YouTube Channel
- Damani Gibson Foundation's Facebook Page
- Do it For Damani's Instagram