Grace on the Gridiron: Divide County football player tells story of cardiac arrest, recovery

Published: Sep. 29, 2022 at 1:01 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 29, 2022 at 3:09 PM CDT
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CROSBY, N.D. (KFYR) – The Divide County Maroons are having a memorable football season.

They haven’t lost a game yet.

But that’s not the only thing that has made this season a special one.

During their September 9 game against Surrey, senior Ole Svangstu went into cardiac arrest. He was taken off the field by ambulance.

Now the good news: amazingly, the 17-year-old is improving, and hopes to back on the field before the season is over.

Ole Svangstu would rather be running on the football field than on a treadmill. But this stress test is an important step to his return to football.

Three weeks ago, Ole collapsed on the field in the middle of a game.

“I just felt lightheaded after that one play and then I was going to go to sidelines and obviously I didn’t make it,” he recalled.

Ole was rushed to the hospital in Minot, then flown to Mayo Clinic. There, doctors discovered Ole has an extra electric pathway in his heart.

“It doesn’t usually cause cardiac arrest, but in this case it did,” explained Ole’s dad, Mitch Svangstu.

While Ole works to get back on the field, his family is feeling grateful.

“We are thankful it happened there and when it did,” said Ole’s mom, Heather Svangstu.

“It could have happened sitting at the kitchen table, or one day while we were in the field or the pasture and the outcome would have been dramatically different,” added Mitch.

“I believe God put the right people there at the right time and place to get us through this and they brought him back to life. It was a tragedy to triumph story,” said Don Anderson, a lifelong resident of Crosby and former newspaper photographer.

Anderson was at the game, taking pictures. He captured the story through his camera lens.

“You could see fear and that he didn’t know what was going on,” said Anderson. “A picture does tell a thousand words.”

But if the Svangstu family had to tell this story in only a few words, they’d chose words like “blessing,” “faith” and “miracle.”

“We’ve been told – even from the doctors – that it’s a true miracle. It’s a good reminder to keep the faith and that miracles do happen still this day and age and we need to remember that,” said Heather.

“We rely on our faith in knowing there’s the reason and trust in the plan,” Mitch added.

“I’ve known him my whole life,” said Divide County senior Layton Krecklau.

For Ole’s teammates and lifelong friends, seeing Ole on that stretcher is a moment they’ll never forget.

“The uncertainty of it was the worst part,” said teammate Easton Eriksmoen.

But their response at that moment speaks volumes.

“We just prayed the entire time,” said teammate Wyatt Caraballo.

Their prayers were answered. Ole spent less than a week in the hospital.

“He is one of the toughest kids you’ll ever meet,” said Caraballo.

“They’re a great group of guys who always have my back,” said Ole. “My coaches are good too. They’re just grateful I’m around for a little longer.”

“Maybe it’s a good reminder that life is fragile,” said Mitch.

And a reminder to live each day with purpose.

“If Ole’s got a second chance at life, we’re going to make it a purposeful life and make a difference,” Mitch said.

After his stress test and doctor’s appointments this week, Ole was given the okay to return to physical activity.

In the meantime, the Crosby community held a benefit to raise money to help with medical bills. Ole’s family says they’re overwhelmed by the support and plan to use part of the funds for AEDs and medical training to ensure the community continues watching out for one another.