SoCal couple who lost 14-year-old daughter to cardiac arrest turns tragedy into triumph

"We wanted to change that outcome," said the father. "We didn't want any other family to experience what we experienced."

Phillip Palmer Image
Wednesday, January 18, 2023
Couple who lost daughter to cardiac arrest turns tragedy into triumph
EMBED <>More Videos

Damar Hamlin's cardiac arrest on Monday Night Football nearly ended in tragedy, but for one local family, the images from the field were deeply personal.

PASADENA, Calif. (KABC) -- Damar Hamlin's cardiac arrest on Monday Night Football nearly ended in tragedy.

The quick actions of trained medical personnel restarted his heart as millions of people watched and worried, but for one local family, the images from the field were deeply personal.

"Immediately, I started thinking about Morgan and what we experienced," said Pastor Kerwin Manning, the senior pastor at Pasadena Church.

Morgan was the daughter of Pastors Kerwin and Madelyn Manning.

She died of cardiac arrest at 14, the result of CPVT, a condition that is a malfunction in the heart's electrical system.

The family had known of Morgan's condition since she was 10, but it did not make the eventual outcome any easier, said Pastor Kerwin.

"Unfortunately, I was the one who found her ... passed out on her floor in her bedroom and I'm the one who tried to administer CPR, but she was already gone," he recalled.

Morgan died in 2017 and in 2018, the Mannings began A Piece of My Heart Foundation hoping to find a cure, but they also wanted to make a more immediate impact.

So about four years ago, upon learning middle schools in the Pasadena Unified School District didn't have Automatic External Defibrillators on campus, they purchased AEDs as well as the training and maintenance for the eight middle schools in the district, chosen with intent because Morgan died just prior to graduating 8th grade.

"We wanted to change that outcome," Kerwin explained. "We didn't want any other family to experience what we experienced. The loss of a child."

Dr. Brian McDonald, the Superintendent of PUSD, said the Mannings' gift moved him to do more.

"Not only do we have these devices in place and the training, it also spurred us into action to make sure that at every school site and in our central offices as well, we have these devices available."

"That gives me piece of mind when I go to bed every night that I know that I have what I need on campus if there is an emergency," said Benita Scheckel, the Executive Principal at Eliot Arts Magnet Academy.

The near death of an NFL football player has highlighted the incredible importance of quick action and the proper equipment in the event of cardiac arrest, but it is a deeply sad irony that the passing of a 14-year-old girl might one day save another from the same fate.

Pastor Madelyn believes as time passes, the family begins to find meaning in their loss.

"I just believe that this is part of our redemption story to go out and promote the AEDs and to do the medical research on CPVT."

Kerwin adds, "My prayer is that because we've at least started the ball rolling, other school districts and other groups and other people will jump on board, even with A Piece of My Heart Foundation, we want to save every life that we can."

CPVT is believed to affect about 1 in 10,000 people and there currently is no cure. However, the Mannings believe through A Piece of My Heart Foundation, and in this case their gift of the AEDs, they're saving lives one heart at a time.