12-year-old Arizona soccer player recovers after suffering cardiac arrest while at practice

A 12-year-old Arizona soccer player is released from the hospital after collapsing on the field - she suffered a cardiac arrest while at practice on April 27.

Support streamed in from the soccer community and beyond, here in the Valley and across the country, for Pyper Midkiff.

"One of those things that's never going to happen to you right? I mean, a healthy 12-year-old, a healthy 12-year-old with no symptoms with parents that are fit and healthy. I've coached for 28 years. I've never seen anything happen like this. I'm a physical therapist and I thought the worst case would be a broken leg," Pyper's father Matt Midkiff said in a previous interview with FOX 10.

Pyper's father says that support and all the messages they've received were been a welcome distraction, getting them through days when they didn't know what the future looked like. 

Pyper was at Phoenix Children's Hospital for weeks recovering.

The 12-year-old was 20 minutes into her competitive club soccer practice when she had a cardiac episode on the field. Doctors are doing tests but don't know exactly why this happened just yet.

While it's atypical and rare, it's not unheard of even in someone so young. CPR was performed almost immediately and doctors say the response time is critical in situations like this to make sure there is no damage done, or as minimal damage as possible.

"We signed her up for a cooling study for her body, which is what Hamlin, the Bills' football player went through, it's what Christian Eriksen, the soccer player, went through when they had heart conditions. To try to keep her brain and liver and kidney and heart functions as normal and minimize tissue damage moving forward as possible," her father said while she was first in the hospital.

One of Pyper's coaches is also an ICU nurse who jumped in to perform CPR almost immediately when she went down.

Cardiac electrophysiologist Peter Weiss with Banner University Medical Center in Phoenix says it's these first few moments that are critical in these situations to prevent as much damage as possible.

"This sort of thing is rare but does occur," he said.

He's an advocate for AEDs, or automated external defibrillators, being readily available in public places, especially sporting events, and CPR training.

"People say it's a miracle that these people are revived, but it's actually not miraculous. It's regular people doing the right thing at the right time. This is something people can be trained in, quite simply," Weiss said.

The Midkiff family is thankful for the outpouring of love and support – saying they believe it's what helped heal Pyper.

"My family has experienced lifetimes of love in two and a half days," Matt said.

'We're 100% blessed with her recovery'

On June 6, we caught up with Pyper and her family, who are now in a much better place.

"I was in the cooling treatment for 5 days. It was a week or two when I woke up?" Pyper said to her twin sister Emeri.

"No, well you woke up but you were hallucinating," Emeri replied.

Pyper said, "I didn't remember anything."

Pyper and Emeri are used to doing everything together. Including finishing each other's sentences.

"To go from four weeks ago not knowing how she was going to wake up and come out of that, to watching her kick a soccer ball around Phoenix Rising stadium this morning is amazing," her father Matt said.

Pyper was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a genetic condition that often shows no symptoms until it's too late.

"I just wanted to know if I could play soccer again. That was like my only question, I asked it a lot of times," Pyper said.

Now, her twin is heading in for the same operation Pyper underwent. Emeri was also diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.

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Photo by Matt Midkiff

"I'm getting my defibrillator tomorrow. So then after we both have a defibrillator we can see how long we can play and stuff," Emeri said.

The twins don't know whether they'll be able to play competitive soccer again, but their dad is thankful for the future, no matter what.

"We're 100% blessed with her recovery and having a recovery story, rather than the story a lot of people get to tell after sudden cardiac arrest for their kids.

Matt says he wants two things to come from sharing the girls' story.

One, that CPR certified people should be at sporting events, especially kids' games and practices at all times, because this is what saved his daughter.

He also wants to bring attention to testing for these types of genetic abnormalities which aren't typically done in sports physicals for kids, but can save their lives.

"The standard from the American Heart Association, which is obviously a high standard, is that kids go through a typical sports physical that generally just involves a stethoscope and a pediatrician…" Matt said, but he says that may not always cover all aspects of a child's health.

He says with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and other related conditions, there are cost-friendly tests parents can have their child undergo to be sure something like this won't happen.

You can learn more about those tests here.