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Grieving Newark mother calls for all coaches to be CPR-trained after 12-year-old son dies playing football

12-year-old collapses, dies at New Jersey football practice
12-year-old collapses, dies at New Jersey football practice 02:41

Grieving mother Reven Brown is calling for all youth-league coaches to be CPR trained after her 12-year-old son collapsed and died while playing football last week. 

"I'm numb right now. I'm crying," Elijah's mother Reven Brown told CBS New York.

After school on Feb. 10, Elijah Jordan Brown-Garcia and his 10-year-old brother took part in a football practice at West Side Park in Newark, New Jersey, with their team the Essex County Predators, CBS New York reported

Elijah, who his mother said had no prior health issues, collapsed on the field. His younger brother called his mother, who was home.

"He said they were throwing water on him and they were fanning him," Brown told CBS New York. 

People on the field called 911 twice, and his mother called a third time, she said. She then rushed over to the football field. It wasn't until 30 or 40 minutes later, Brown said, that an ambulance arrived to help her child. 

The boy was taken to University Hospital in Newark, where he died. The family is awaiting autopsy results, Brown said. 

Brown said she asked the Essex County Predators coach: "Why didn't anyone know what to do?"  

The coach, according to Brown, answered that no one on the field knew CPR. He pledged to get all coaches certified in CPR, she said.

"Our Hearts are crushed and our condolences screams out to the family of our very own Elijah E2 Brown. We love You," the Essex County Predators wrote in an Instagram post. 

Players ages 4 to 14 who participate in the league were able to receive mentoring and counseling, the team said in a registration flyer. 

"Coaches out there need to be CPR certified," Brown said. "He was a great kid. He didn't deserve this."

The on-field collapse of Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin during a Jan. 2 NFL game, after suffering a cardiac arrest, has brought attention to heart health risks among adults and children.

About 60 million children in the U.S. participate in organized sports, and cardiac arrest is the leading cause of death among young athletes. 

The best way to be prepared for the potential is to have the training and equipment necessary to respond. Dr. Korin Hudson, a MedStar Health emergency physician told CBS News that if an AED — an automated external defibrillator is used within the first minute of collapse, the chances of survival are close to 90%. Each minute lost reduces the chance of survival by approximately 10%, said the Athletic Trainers' Society of New Jersey.

Parents should know where the closest AED is, always have a way to dial 911, ask coaches if they know CPR, and make sure their school or club has an emergency action plan. In New Jersey, coaches employed by the state Department of Education are required to have CPR certification and first aid training, said the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association. 

High school students are also required to learn CPR, as part of "Janet's Law" — known as the "defibrillator law" — which was signed in 2012, and passed in 2014, and requires every district and school to have an AED available in an unlocked location on school property with an appropriate identifying sign. An AED must be accessible during the school day, and this includes physical education and recess, the law states.

The law falls short of mandating AEDs at any location hosting youth athletic events outside of school-sanctioned leagues. In 2015, a bill passed by New Jersey lawmakers was vetoed by then-Gov. Chris Christie. The former governor cited the wide scope of the bill in his veto message.

Latinos and African Americans are 30% less likely to have a bystander perform CPR on them in an emergency, according to American Heart Association (AHA) research. People who live in lower-income, African-American neighborhoods are 50% less likely to have CPR performed, said the AHA. 

"Elijah was an outgoing, loving young kid," wrote his family on their GoFundMe page, where they are raising money for his funeral and memorial. 

"He loved dancing and football and loved his family. He made sure everyone was comfortable with his infectious smile. He loved going to school and he loved his friends," his family wrote.  

— Norah O'Donnell and Olivia Rinaldi contributed to this report. 

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