'They saved her life': 13-year-old from Tracy survives cardiac arrest

A 13-year-old from Tracy is recovering in a hospital after suffering an apparent cardiac arrest at school and her parents credit the quick work of the community in saving her life.

Heather Freligh is an eighth grader at Art Freiler School where Friday her parents say she slumped over her desk, fell off her chair, hit the ground and started to turn blue.

"It was really scary because we didn’t know anything," father Derek Ferligh said. She has no underlying medical conditions. She’s healthy and never even had a visit in the hospital for a decade."

The teenager is an active and passionate basketball player both at school and with an area boys on a travel team.

That’s partly why when she stopped breathing, it came as a huge surprise to her family and those at school.

"It was pretty clear right away that we had a very serious situation on our hands," said Art Freiler School Principal Stephen Theall. "In a lot of ways students here are like my children."

Theall said he cleared the classroom and another student called 911 before he tried to revive Heather until first responders arrived.

Tracy Police School Resource Officer Alex Contreras was one of the first to show up and wasted no time administering CPR.

"I have a 13-year-old son so it kind of hit home a little bit," he said. "We needed to do something ASAP."

Paramedics soon jumped in and shocked Heather’s heart three times, said Ferligh who is also an Alameda County Sheriff’s deputy.

"I know from my line of work seconds matter. They saved her life," he said.

Heather was taken to a local Tracy hospital, then airlifted to UCSF Mark Benioff Children’s Hospital in Oakland and eventually transported to UCSF in San Francisco where she is still undergoing tests and treatment.

Initially, she was intubated and unconscious but within 24 hours she regained consciousness, move her eyes and respond to people, her parents said.

"She is a fierce young lady and a fighter," Ferligh said. "There is no doubt in our mind that it was a miracle."

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What caused Heather’s condition is not known. But who came to the rescue is easy to see in the words and messages that now surround her hospital bed.

"One of the things we talk about is being the Freiler family," Theall said. "That’s not something we say because it sounds nice or looks good on a poster. We say it because we mean it."

And that means the world to Heather and her family as they offer a heartfelt "thank you" to the entire community.

"It was a village that came together to save her and it’s a village that’s keeping us strong," said Ferligh. "And it’s a village that’s going to get us through this."

If you're interested in helping with the family's medical expenses, click here. 

Brooks Jarosz is a reporter for KTVU. Email him at  brooks.jarosz@fox.com and follow him on Facebook and X @BrooksKTVU