Michigan football shirt comforts family after son’s death

SARANAC – His heart has stopped beating. Skylar Lasby wasn’t really doing anything, just waiting for the next drill, when he collapsed on a soccer field.

They tried to revive him – the nurses on leave who rushed to the field to help, as well as the pharmacist and the school trainer. They pushed on his chest, begging, begging.

Until the helicopter arrives.

But it didn’t work. Skylar died of sudden cardiac arrest caused by congenital heart disease on August 28. He was 12 years old.

And now a silver coffin was installed in the high school gymnasium – the largest building they could find in Saranac. About 800 people filled the stands for his funeral – more than half of the residents of this small rural village between Lansing and Grand Rapids. His helmet was placed on the coffin and he was buried with his Saranac Junior High School No.2 soccer jersey. Her family were sitting on aluminum chairs in the middle of the gym – around 40 of them were wearing the same red T-shirt in honor of Skylar. His teammates wore their jerseys – that’s what Skylar’s family wanted.

And Jack Harbaugh – the father of Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh – sat in the back with tears in his eyes.

Becky Poor, senior pastor at Saranac Community Church, spoke about how such a huge Michigan fan Skylar is. His goal was to play UM football and be drafted by the Detroit Lions. She held a soccer ball signed by Jim Harbaugh and read the inscription: “The thoughts of our team are with you during this difficult time. Our prayers are with you – Jim Harbaugh.

The ball, signed by Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh, donated to the Lasby family.

Tears, more tears and Harbaugh

Jack attended the funeral at Jim’s request, and when Poor introduced him, he went to the front and handed the soccer ball to Scott Lasby, Skylar’s father, and presented a Michigan jersey to the mother. of the player, Rhonda. It was a No. 2 jersey – Skylar’s number – and it had his name on the back.

“It was special,” Rhonda said. “It was wonderful.”

“We broke down, of course,” Scott said. “We were both gouging our eyes out. I gave Jack a big hug. He was just great. He showed what a grandfather looks like. He’s a family man. “

After the funeral, the football players formed a tunnel, as seen before the start of a game or at a support rally, and the casket was taken to a hearse.

Scott walked out of the gym with his right hand raised in the air, with two fingers pointing skyward as if to say: No.2 is in Heaven now.

Jack was caught in the emotion. He saw the devastation in the eyes of Saranac coach Andy Lytle. He could feel the deep sadness of the community.

“Do you mind if I speak to the program?” Jacques asked.

“Absolutely not,” Lytle said. “I think it would be nice.”

Saranac’s football program – from middle school to high school – includes fewer than 100 players. They all use the same scope of practice and everyone knows everyone. And now they were snuggling up with Jack Harbaugh.

Jack hadn’t planned to say anything. But he spoke to the players as if he was giving the most important speech of his life.

“He said sometimes you get a punch in the stomach,” said Brad Hesche, one of the youth coaches. “It all depends on how you get up and lead after that. That’s what he told all the boys and that’s what resonated with me.

Jack Harbaugh, the father of Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh, gives a UM jersey to the Lasby family at Saranac High School.

All the lessons that can come from a football field, all the things that seem like hackneyed clichés – overcoming adversity, coming together, helping each other – seemed important at that point. Like a road map to get through the darkness of a real tragedy.

“He was telling us to stay strong,” said Cole Edwards, a senior. “He told us that no one else in the state had gone through what we had been through. Just tell us to hold our heads up and play for him.

Jack spoke for about 15 minutes. “It wasn’t just a short, sweet conversation,” Lytle said. “He was sincere and passionate about what he was saying on the program, about staying together, with the captains taking the lead and everyone following those leaders. He said, ‘That’s what you have to do, when something like that happens. Get on the plate and become a big family. ‘

“What we already were.”

Jack doesn’t remember what he said. It was so moving that his memory died out.

“When I got home, it just kind of just happened,” Jack said. “The gym. The parents. The players. The message. The gym was packed. It was so emotional.

One of the most emotional moments he has ever faced.

A few days later, Jim spoke about it in his weekly podcast.

“Just the youngster himself, I would have loved to know him,” Jim said on his podcast. “He looked like a cool kid.”

A cool family, really.

Scott and Rhonda adopted Skylar and his two brothers eight years ago. They have three adult biological children and have hosted 12 international students over the years. So when they found out that three brothers were going through the foster care system, going through seven homes in three years, they opened their front door and adopted all three.

Skylar looked healthy to his parents. He had had a physical exam just a week before his death and trained constantly. He told a teammate, “I have abs! He was going through puberty – suddenly building muscle. He flexed and said to Scott and Rhonda, “Look, I have veins. “

Give meaning to everything

His death made no sense to them.

“They did a sprint and they were coming back in line,” Scott said. “He hit the nail on the head with one of his friends.

“And that’s when he fell,” Rhonda said.

“He had a seizure or something,” Scott said.

The Lasbys live about 3 km from the school. They rushed to the training ground.

“We started getting phone calls and texts,” Rhonda said. “All they could tell us was that Skylar was injured and he went down there right away.”

Nurses worked on Skylar while waiting for help to arrive. One of the nurses was from Kalamazoo. She was only there because she watched her children run in a cross-country ski competition in Saranac. “She got out of the car and her kids stayed in the car,” Rhonda said. “She said they prayed all the time. She went to the field to do what she could.

Skylar’s teammates were kicked out, so they couldn’t watch.

Scott said an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) had been used on Skylar in the field, but that didn’t help.

“I knew he was gone,” Rhonda said.

“We could see it in their faces,” Scott said.

“It was horrible,” Rhonda said.

Skylar was transported by helicopter to Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital in Grand Rapids.

“We knew we were going to say goodbye,” Rhonda said.

“They kept his body alive, so they could do some tests to make sure they could do whatever they could,” Scott said.

He died in the hospital and they donated his body for organ donation. Doctors removed part of his veins and bones.

Skylar suffered from congenital cardiomyopathy, a disease of the heart muscle that can lead to heart failure. According to the National Institutes of Health, up to 1 in 40,000 athletes die each year from sudden cardiac arrest.

Doctors tested Skylar’s two biological brothers to see if they had the same problem.

“These two had two different types of ECGs,” Rhonda said. “They had echocardiograms, they looked normal. Nothing showed. But we still have heart monitors on them.

A poster for Skylar Lasby on the school grounds in Saranac.

HOW TO HELP:Go fund me for the Lasby family

Community support

The Lasby family were blown away by the support of the community, not only in Saranac, but beyond. A GoFundMe account was opened and by Thursday afternoon he had raised over $ 13,000. The surrounding high schools raised funds, passing a hat. People dropped off food and paid the family bill at a restaurant. “It’s amazing,” Scott said.

The women’s volleyball team organized a car wash and donated over $ 3,000 to the Lasby family. The Lasby family actually went to the car wash, to support the team, not knowing the money was going to them.

The Lasbys want to take the donations and buy a portable external heart pump for the local fire department, something that wouldn’t have saved their son but could help someone else. As far as they know, nothing could have been done to save Skylar.

The Lasbys are also considering a scholarship fund. Something to keep her memory alive and help the community and try to help someone else.

They just don’t know what to do, or even how to do it.

Hold his son

Scott and Rhonda went to their first football game in Michigan on September 9 when the Wolverines played Army.

“On our way to Ann Arbor for the Michigan game,” Scott posted on Facebook. “Nervous as hell like we’ve never been but happy to be going.… Skylar will look down, smiling.”

Rhonda took a picture of Scott at the wheel, holding up two fingers, Skylar’s number.

A look at the Michigan soccer jersey given to the Lasby family by Jack Harbaugh at Skylar Lasby's funeral, held by Skylar's father, Scott.

The tickets were a gift from a family member. They didn’t call Harbaugh, didn’t tell anyone in the sports department, because they didn’t want to bother.

But they saw this # 2 jersey everywhere they looked at the pitch. Carlo Kemp, a senior defensive lineman, wears that number on defense and was named Defensive Player of the Game after a career-high nine tackles. Quarterback Shea Patterson carries him on offense and he threw for 207 passing yards. And kicker Jake Moody wears that number on special teams, and he punched a winning basket from 43 yards.

And there was Scott, holding up two fingers, pointing skyward.

Scott and Rhonda don’t know who they belong to. But at some point, they plan to build a sanctuary in their basement, a place to display that Michigan jersey and signed football.

Rhonda sat on her back porch Tuesday afternoon, hugging the jersey.

“My tears are everywhere,” she said, unsure whether to wash him off.

She held the swimsuit close to her body, wrapping her hands around it in the hot sun, as if holding her son.

Contact Jeff Seidel: [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @seideljeff. To read his recent columns, visit freep.com/sports/jeff-seidel.

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