Family of preteen shares recovery journey after cardiac arrest

By: 
A. Marie Hamilton, NLJ Reporter

Courtesy of Brianna Smellie

Diagnosed with Wolfe-Parkinson-White earlier in the year, 11-year-old Kase Smellie also suffered a serious cardiac event in June and was life-flighted to the Children’s Hospital Colorado in Aurora. 

 

The community came together this past summer to support Kase Smellie, a Newcastle Middle School student who suffered a cardiac arrest, and Kase’s family wants to thank community members for their continued support in his recovery.  

 

Kase, 11, is still undergoing various therapies but has returned to school part time and his mother, Brianna Smellie, told the News Letter Journal that the community came together quickly to support their family in their time of need. In fact, she said folks continue to do so — and have earned the family’s love and gratitude. 

 

Smellie, who has kept a medical journal since her son was first airlifted to a children’s hospital in the Denver area, recalled the events of that day.  

 

“On Tuesday, June 20, 2023, at about 10:52 a.m., Kase, 11, went into a very unexpected cardiac arrest,” Smellie said. “He walked out of his bedroom and told his brother David, 9, that he felt like he was going to pass out and to call mom.”

 

Smellie said the boys couldn’t reach her at first, so they decided to call their father, who then called Smellie, and she immediately rushed home. However, by the time she made it into her driveway, it became clear the family needed to call first responders.

 

“When I walked in the house, Kase was on the couch — blue, unresponsive, blown pupils and his skin was cold,” Smellie explained. “I immediately pulled him off the couch and after realizing that he didn’t have a heartbeat, began CPR.” 

 

Smellie explained how the early summer morning had turned into one of the worst nightmares she has ever experienced.

 

“After seeing everything that had gone on — I was paralyzed with fear of them coming in to tell me he was gone,” Smellie recalled. “When the very amazing and sweet charge-nurse came in and told us he was breathing — I burst out in sobs of relief.”

 

Little did Smellie and the rest of the family know they were about to embark on what they described as “one of the scariest roller coasters with the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.”

 

While at the hospital, the medical team made a quick decision to life-flight Kase to Children’s Hospital-Anschutz Medical Campus — the nearest hospital with a pediatric cardiology specialist.

 

After countless hours of testing, Smellie said, an intensive care unit doctor diagnosed Kase with Wolff Parkinson’s White Syndrome, or WPW. According to the Mayo Clinic, WPW is where an extra signaling pathway between the heart’s upper and lower chambers causes a fast heartbeat, known as tachycardia, and is present at birth. This syndrome is fairly rare and generally is not life-threatening if managed, but serious heart problems can occur and can lead to sudden cardiac death in children and young adults.

 

It’s a condition that the Smellie family would like to educate more people about, once Kase is through his recovery.

 


 

Smellie credits her quick thinking, CPR training and ability to remain calm in a crisis to saving the life of her son; she also acknowledges his brother David’s willingness to help.

 

“We are extremely grateful and feel angels around us — watching over my amazingly kind son,” Brianna wrote in her journal.

 

On Sept. 9, friends of the family hosted a silent auction and dinner to raise funds for Kase’s continued supportive care, including occupation, physical and speech therapies.

 

“We didn’t have a goal in mind — but we were overwhelmed and surprised in how much we raised to continue to support Kase in his recovery journey,” Smellie said.

 

The event was held at the Weston County Senior Center, and she said the more than 80 items donated for the silent auction was beyond expectations, as were the donations of food for the free meal offered to those who attended the auction. The silent auction items included gift baskets, guns, hotel stays and even beef.  

 

“The items for auction were impressive and we are thankful for every individual who pitched in,” Smellie stated. 

 

The evening raised more than $20,000 for Kase’s treatment, and he can now continue his much-needed therapies, she said. 

 

From first responders to the various community and church leaders, to the therapists and each community member who contributed to her son’s recovery — all have made a difference, she said.

 

“Overwhelmed — shocked and overwhelmed by the outpouring of support,” Smellie said when asked about how she was doing during Kase’s recovery.

Now home, Kase is working on regaining his health.

 

“Kase is home now, his recovery is still a work in progress — he has a lot of therapies, such as physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy — and he is doing very well in them,” Smellie said.

 

“We are still traveling to Spearfish, South Dakota, three times a week for speech, occupational and physical therapies,” she said. “We are also still traveling to Children’s Hospital Colorado one to two times a month to continue his recovery.”

 

Kase has “returned to school for two half-days,” which helps with his recovery, Smellie said.

 

“We can’t say thank you enough to our community,” Smellie said. “Where would we be without them?”

 

The family invites the community to follow Kase’s continued care by visiting the medical recovery journal online at caringbridge.org, and simply search “Kase Smellie. “

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