LGBTQ Atlanta soccer team launches fundraiser for recovering teammate

In life, as in soccer, there are goals, and then there are goals. When a man in a local soccer group suffered cardiac trouble, his teammates and friends came together to help him.

Hotlanta Soccer is an amateur LGBTQ soccer group in Atlanta. Current roster: 35 members. They play in the Atlanta Sports and Social Club league. One of Hotlanta’s members, Peter Jones, age 35, was playing in a match at Piedmont Park on Tuesday, April 10. Jones had joined the group a year before. Five minutes after the start of the game, Jones (jersey number: 3), subbed in. Several minutes of play passed without incident. Then, without warning, Jones dropped to the ground.

His life might have been forfeit, if not for two medically trained teammates. Christian van Scherpenseel is a Registered Nurse at Emory Healthcare. Payton Reiter is a Registered Physician at Emory Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. Reiter and van Scherpenseel assessed the situation. At first, they believed Jones was having a seizure. But Jones’ lack of pulse or breathing argued otherwise. They commenced CPR. A player on the other team called 911. In an interview with Georgia Voice, Hotlanta Team Captain David D’Onofrio estimated the paramedics took eight to 10 minutes to arrive. During the wait, Reiter and van Scherpenseel were joined by several other doctors and nurses. The group tag-teamed CPR and shouted for an AED–an automated external defibrillator. Fortunately, the area had one. Two separate shocks were administered to Jones’ chest.

D’Onofrio, a ten-year Hotlanta veteran, suggested the presence of medical professionals and the AED made the difference between life and death. “Some folks thought it might have been a tennis instructor that just happened to be walking by carrying one. It’s a mystery and we’re still trying to figure it out.”

By the time the paramedics arrived, Jones had been brought back. Irregular breathing. Intermittent pulse. But stable. A quick drive to Piedmont Hospital. Taylor Tyger, his teammate, rode with him. That evening was the beginning of an ongoing late-night vigil. His teammates stayed with him. Jones’ parents came up from Florida the next day.

A stent was inserted into Jones’ heart: left anterior descending. A second stent followed, on April 12.

In due course, the results came back. Doctors told the team that Jones had suffered a cardiac arrest. Cardiac arrests are distinctly different, and more serious, than a heart attack. Cardiac arrest means death, unless CPR is swiftly applied. In an email, D’Onofrio wrote the team “was just relieved that Peter is back to his normal, sassy self with a good prognosis for a complete recovery.”

On Friday 13, Jones left the hospital. His mother has been with him ever since.

D’Onofrio emphasized that “widowmaker” heart attacks could strike “even young healthy active people like Peter.” He said that Jones was “doing much better” and was “resting at home.” As an hourly-wage contractor, Jones will miss two weeks of work. There’s an additional worry. Jones’ insurer is Blue Cross/Blue Shield. On March 31, BCBS dropped Piedmont Hospital from their provider list. Jones was kept alive, but out of network. His medical costs will be expensive. Indeed, the very fact that his cardiac arrest happened in such a public place may have kept him from death.

The team went straight to work. They set up a GoFundMe. The goal is to raise money for Jones–and, D’Onofrio said, “to raise awareness and funding (if possible) for AEDs in public parks in Atlanta.”

On the group’s GoFundMe page, Jones is described as “the kind of guy who does more than just show up–he rises up to every occasion,” and a person who “shows up with tools when your car breaks down. Peter goes above and beyond and is always there when you need him.”

“Our soccer team,” the page states, “has a motto that we wear proudly on our jerseys: Y’all Means All. Everyone is welcome to play and we support each other through thick and thin. As a midfielder on our soccer team, we joke that Peter runs so hard and so fast that he has trouble stopping.”

“Our understanding,” D’Onofrio said, “is that he should be able to make a complete recovery and he is hopeful that he will be able to return to the activities he loves like soccer and volleyball. He will be meeting and running tests with cardiologists in the next week, and for the rest of his life, to assess how quickly he can return to being active.”

The team’s GoFundMe page can be found here.