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Damar Hamlin incident mirrors Colorado Springs high school football collapse due to heart condition

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- For one Colorado Springs family, Monday Night's Football game resulting in one of the players collapsing on the field, brought back fresh and painful memories.

On Oct 17, 2023, during a Junior Varsity football game between Liberty High School and Thomas Jefferson High School, freshman center Jordan O'Connell collapsed. He suffered a cardiac arrest just minutes into the game.

Jordan O'Connell

The boy's father, Jake O'Connell, was sitting in the stands. When he saw Jordan hit the ground, Jake thought his 15-year-old son was dead. Jordan appeared to be experiencing a seizure and was struggling to breathe.

Similar to Buffalo Bill's Safety Damar Hamlin on Monday night in Cincinnati, trainers started performing life-saving measures on Jordan.

"When Damar Hamlin collapsed it was the same exact way that Jordan collapsed. It was like deja vu," Jake told KRDO NewsChannel 13. "His defense caused a fumble and our offense was running back onto the field so there was a lot of excitement and adrenaline."

"Apparently I was just going onto the field, passed out, and my heart stopped," Jordan said

"It was the scariest thing. I literally watched my son die on the field," said Jake.

After he collapsed, Jordan said the Liberty High School Athletics trainer proceeded to cut his jersey and pads off and began performing CPR.

Jordan was taken by paramedics to a Colorado Springs area hospital.

Like in Cincinnati, after Jordan collapsed, the rest of the game was canceled.

Jordan was later diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. His condition was unknown to Jordan and his family before collapsing on the football field.

“Jordan has a big heart," Brettney O'Connell, Jordan's mother, told KRDO. "The left side of his heart is enlarged. That is what has caused this.”

“I felt very grateful, and I felt very mad," Jordan said. "My future just changed. My whole life just changed.”

“He may not play football again. We just don’t know," Jordan's mother said.

Jordan says he feels bad for Hamlin and his family, especially because it was televised and happened for the whole United States to see.

"I can only imagine was his family is going through right now," O'Connell said.

To help with his heart condition, the 15-year-old football player had a defibrillator placed on his heart and he is also taking beta blockers every day.

The high school freshman said he hasn't given up hope and is still confident he'll play football again.

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Dan Beedie

Dan is a reporter with the 13 Investigates team. Learn more about Dan here.

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