Sutton Remembers Michael Ellsessar With Candlelight Vigil

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Sutton residents come out again to celebrate the life of Michael Ellsessar, who died two years ago. Photo Credit: Steve Balestrieri
John and Luann Ellsessar speak with television reporters before the candlelight vigil Thursday night. Photo Credit: Steve Balestrieri
The candles are lit and passed around to take away the darkness. Photo Credit: Steve Balestrieri
The community of Sutton rallies around the Ellsessar family. Photo Credit: Steve Balestrieri
The candles are lit at the vigil Thursday. Photo Credit: Steve Balestrieri
"99 on the field, #1 in their hearts." Photo Credit: Steve Balestrieri

SUTTON, Mass. — At Sutton Common on Thursday night, John and Luann Ellsessar held a candlelight vigil with a few hundred supporters in memory of their son, Michael, who died two years ago to the day during a football game.

Ellsessar, a wide receiver, sustained a hit to the chest Nov. 15, 2010, and collapsed on the field after suffering sudden cardiac arrest.

Though Ellsessar received CPR almost immediately, a portable automatic external defibrillator was not available. Through the efforts of the Ellsessars, new legislation was passed to require AEDs at all sporting events. “Mike’s Law” was signed by Gov. Deval Patrick on John Ellsessar’s birthday this spring.

But the loss is taking its toll on Ellsessar’s parents; Michael would have been a senior in high school this year. “This week has been really tough,” John said. “Two years ago we were in shock, and then last year we worked on getting 'Mike’s Law' passed and getting the store" open — Mike’s Sporting Spirit used sporting goods for community kids.

“But now,” he said, “we’re dealing with the finality of it. Mike’s not out of town, away at school or in the military. ... His friends are all driving cars and getting ready to graduate."

The Ellsessars read poems, and John spoke emotionally about his son. The crowd then lit candles to honor Michael and others in need.

During sudden cardiac arrest, the heart suddenly and unexpectedly stops beating, usually from a blow to the chest. An estimated 295,000 cases of sudden cardiac arrest occurs outside of hospitals every year, the American Heart Association says. The national survival rate is about 8 percent.

The key to preventing death is to immediately treat victims with an AED to restore normal heart rhythm, even before emergency personnel arrive. Communities that have comprehensive AED programs in place have achieved survival rates of 40 percent or higher.

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