By Joyce Coronel
Nathan Boyer, a student at West Chandler’s Aprende Middle School, is crazy about baseball. He’s been playing since he was 3. “I love everything about it,” he says with a grin.
Two years ago, after the family moved back to Arizona, Nathan played for a team coached by Isaac Wenrich, a baseball fanatic himself.
Wenrich, 26, thinks Nathan is an amazing kid. And not just because he rocks at second base. Nathan saved Wenrich’s life.
A couple of weeks ago, Nathan’s mom, Julie, dropped him off at Desert Breeze Park for a coaching session with Wenrich.
“We were going to do a baseball lesson and Coach Wenrich said his chest hurt,” Nathan recalled. “He said he slammed some food down and thought maybe he had some indigestion.”
Julie nodded in agreement. “He said that to me when he got out of the car, but when you’re looking at a 26-year-old athlete, you’re not thinking anything will come of that.”
After Wenrich assured Julie that he was fine, she drove off. He was sitting on the big bucket of balls baseball coaches tote with them, texting on his smart phone, when it happened. Nathan had just finished stretching and doing some lunges to warm up.
“He said, ‘Let’s get started.’ And then he just fell off the bucket,” Nathan recounted. “I was thinking he was joking at first, to be honest, because that’s his personality.”
But Wenrich wasn’t kidding. He was in full cardiac arrest.
“After 30 seconds — I kept asking, ‘Are you OK? Are you OK?’ He wasn’t responding and I thought, I need to call 911.”
Having the presence of mind to keep Wenrich’s phone active so the locking feature wouldn’t kick in, Nathan dialed 911.
“They told me to roll him over because he was face down at the time, and that I needed to perform compressions on him,” Nathan said. Two years ago, he’d learned CPR through the Boy Scouts. The 911 operator stayed on the line with Nathan, guiding him through the steps.
“This lady came over and asked if he was OK and I said I don’t know.”
Paramedics were less than a mile away and quickly arrived. And though he had remained calm during the crisis, once the rescue workers showed up, Nathan said he was suddenly worried about his coach. Mom Julie rushed to the scene.
Some of the paramedics spoke with Nathan while others worked on Wenrich. Was his coach going to make it? “They said, ‘He’s in pretty bad shape. We’re not sure.’ It was a bit scary. He’s one of my best friends from here—one of my first friends here.”
“He’s been more than a coach. He’s been a real good mentor for the last year,” Julie said.
Firefighters later told Julie that the outcome would have been much different if Nathan hadn’t been there. Wenrich had suffered what doctors refer to as the widow-maker heart attack, involving a 100 percent blockage of the main coronary artery.
What if Wenrich had been alone at the park? What if he had been still driving on the freeway from his home in Glendale?
“It was one of those times when everything happened to fall into place. Somebody had to be there. Somebody had to act quickly,” Julie said.
That somebody was a 13-year-old Boston Red Sox fan who dreams of one day being a professional baseball player. A 13-year-old who thinks the world of Wenrich, who is chasing his own dream, playing in the independent baseball league.
“My husband and I are in awe of what happened and how composed Nathan was through such a traumatic situation,” Julie said. “Isaac’s number one fan was with him.”
The Boyers visited Wenrich at Chandler Regional Hospital a few days after the incident that nearly stole a life.
Wenrich says he’s grateful for Nathan’s quick thinking—grateful to God for a second chance at living.
“For a kid of 13 to know CPR or to remember CPR — you just don’t see that nowadays. I’m very lucky to be alive,” Wenrich said.
He stops to consider how the hours of coaching Nathan led to a remarkable outcome.
“I never really understood how much of an impact I made on someone’s life, but when they turn around and save your life, it really registers. You’ve done something in their life that has inspired them or has kept them thinking clearly. “The Lord kept me alive for who knows what reason. And Nate? He’s amazing to me.”