Lawmakers pass bill to prevent similar cardiac-related incidents from affecting other athletes

The bill would require training on cardiac conditions.
Published: May. 12, 2023 at 7:44 PM CDT
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - Thursday was a triumphant day for Dionne Mack, the mother of Tyrell Spencer, who died from complications of cardiac arrhythmia while playing basketball at the Richard Showers Center in 2010.

“I’m full of emotions, I’m excited, I’m happy, my heart is overjoyed,” Mack said. “I want to cry, I want to giggle. It’s amazing.”

On May 12, lawmakers passed House Bill 45, named after her son.

The bill would require coaches at all levels to undergo training on how to react to sudden cardiac arrest, like how to administer CPR and use a defibrillator. The State Board of Education would also be required to approve training requirements, adopt guidelines and post information regarding sudden cardiac arrest publicly.

“I can’t change what happened, but I can most definitely rewrite the narrative and change the perspective and the outlook,” Mack said. “That’s where my focus is.”

Mack went more than a decade not knowing what caused her son’s death.

But after learning what happened from a recent autopsy, she got to work with Alabama State Representative Jeremy Gray to make sure other young athletes don’t suffer the same fate.

“I think that I’m driven deeper with passion when I learned about her story,” Gray said. “And she was telling me about just the years of the journey that she’s went through to be an advocate for this. And that’s kind of why we came with the name change because I really wanted to put a name and a face with it.”

Mack has also worked with NFL player Damar Hamlin, who suffered cardiac arrest during a game, but survived after receiving CPR.

She says Hamlin served as further inspiration to get House Bill 45 passed.

“Anytime I see an incident like that, it’s a mixed emotion, because one -- it makes me say ‘what if this would have happened with my son? Would he still be present today?’” Mack said. “But the at the same time, I also am grateful because what I don’t want to happen is anybody to lose their life over something that could have possibly been prevented.”

House Bill 45 will not officially become a law until Governor Kay Ivey signs it, but Gray tells me the bill passed with zero opposition from lawmakers.

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